1997 Scorecard Vote
The 1980 Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act requires states to either create their own disposal sites for low-level radioactive waste or form agreements called "compacts" with other states (which must be approved by Congress) to establish burial sites. Low-level radioactive waste includes a wide range of contaminated materials. The wastes come from hospitals and waste materials from nuclear power plants that have become radioactive as a result of exposure to nuclear fuel. Although proponents often state that low-level waste is only medical waste, booties, and gloves, the primary constituent (more than 90%) of "low-level" radioactive waste is nuclear reactor waste. Low-level waste from nuclear power plants includes control rods and a variety of irradiated materials from the plant. H.R. 629, sponsored by eastern Texas Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Ralph Hall (D-TX), approves a compact that permits Maine and Vermont to ship low-level radioactive wastes to a facility in western Texas.
The waste facility would be built outside Reps. Barton and Hall's districts, near Sierra Blanca, a predominantly Hispanic and low-income community located on the Mexican border and about 16 miles from the Rio Grande River. Sierra Blanca's Congressman Henry Bonilla (R-TX), as well as neighboring Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), strongly oppose the project. Opponents of the compact, including Sierra Blanca residents, argue that the facility will violate agreements with Mexico that prohibit environmental degradation along the U.S.-Mexico border and the President's Executive Order on Environmental Justice by singling out a low-income, predominantly Hispanic community to receive nuclear waste.
On October 7, 1997, the House passed H R. 629, 309 - 107. NO is the pro-environment vote.