The Philip Pioneer Review and Native Sun News report on the first big public meeting hosted in Philip February 7 by RESPEC (ah! REsearch SPECialists! Now I get it!) on the Deep Borehole Field Test. Over a hundred people heard the following:
There is no waste involved with this project. This site will never be used for storage or disposal. We will have a legal obligation to plug and abandon both those holes and restore the site [Todd Kenner, in Talli Nauman, “‘Deep Borehole’ Test in Lakota Territory Stirs ‘Deep Concern’,” Native Sun News, 2017.02.15].
Kenner says RESPEC as a firm supports House Bill 1071, which would subject any nuclear waste disposal (which the Borehole isn’t) to a vote of the Legislature. (HB 1071 has passed the House and awaits Senate State Affairs’ attention.)
Another RESPEC engineer says he wouldn’t be involved if the Borehole involved nuclear waste:
Regarding noise pollution, most people will never hear anything other than the resident about one mile from the site and the landowner, Julian Roseth. Roseth noted many area residents operate grain dryers and he did not expect the noise to be worse than them [Haigh, 2017.02.15].
No words offered by project engineers will matter, since opponents of the project will invariably appeal to unrebuttable fears and hypotheticals:
Gregg Jankord, Chamberlain,… stated his concern is if they prove they can do a borehole successfully in South Dakota they could come back and use the location. Maybe not use that borehole, but drill another.
…While this administration, whether in Washington, D.C., or Pierre, may not want nuclear waste in South Dakota a future one could [Haigh, 2017.02.15].
…and blanket indictments of every word spoken:
…Jen Jones noted she does like Kenner and Nopola and others involved. “These guys are likable. I like talking to them,” she said. “I want you all to remember this is not REPEC’S project. It is the Department of Energy’s,” she said. “In my mind RESPEC is going to do what they have said. It will look good for them, the School of Mines, and South Dakota. This is the Department of Energy’s project…to solve Department of Energy’s storage disposal of nuclear waste” [Haigh, 2017.02.15].
…because no one trusts the federal government, especially not our Lakota neighbors:
Three-time elected Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Councilor Bryce In The Woods spoke at the meeting about the violation of the treaties as a reason for mistrusting the company’s promise to keep radioactive waste out of the picture.
“Once the School of Mines learns a lot of good things,” nuclear waste disposal will follow, he warned. “This is what they are going to do. You’re going to be looking at leaking out,” he said. “From the point of view of our treaties with the United States, they’ve broken all of them,” he told a standing-room-only crowd of at least 100 people assembled in Philip at the meeting that Respec billed as the first of a number [Nauman, 2017.02.15].
RESPEC will beat its head against more walls at tonight’s public meeting in Midland at Trinity Lutheran Church, starting at 5 p.m.
But the South Dakota Legislature’s effort to strip voters of their constitutional right to legislate and make Pierre the sole lawmaking authority is not limited to fast-tracked House Bill 1069. Here is the list of bills filed so far that either tinker with voter-approved laws or revise petition and election law to weaken voter power. I mark in red the worst bills, those that definitely deserve a NO vote.
Tinkering with Voter-Approved Laws:
HB 1069: An Act to repeal and revise certain provisions related to campaign finance and to declare an emergency.
Intent: Repeal IM22’s $100 limit on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers and immediate family and replace it with a soft $100 cap on gifts riddled with exceptions (including all those free meals on the Legislative Social Calendar).
HB 1175: “An Act to revise the method of establishing certain interest rates.”
Originally a carcass bill, HB 1175’s title suggested possible tinkering with the 36% rate cap on payday lending. An amendment offered Monday, Feb. 13, showed the bill targets the interest rates used to figure damages in court cases. No harm, no foul.
SB 131: An Act to revise certain provisions concerning the period of time elected officials are prohibited from lobbying after leaving office.
Intent: now nearly replicates IM 22 Section 65 lobbyist revolving-door limits; originally offered a significantly weaker replacement. Forbids any “No elected officer, department or agency head, or division director, or the highest paid employee reporting to such person” from lobbying for two years after leaving government service.
HB 1034: An Act to establish certain fees for receiving electronic files of petitions, to revise certain provisions concerning filing petitions and other documents, and to revise certain provisions concerning elections and voting.
Intent: mixed bag!
On the bad side, HB 1034 strikes the Secretary of State’s obligation to include Pro and Con statements from interested parties on the official state ballot question pamphlet. While these Pro/Con statements can include utter bushwah, they are also one opportunity for honest, low-budget grassroots campaigns to reach every voter in the state with a few paragraphs explaining their measure.
On the good side, HB 1034 improves openness by establishing fixed, affordable fees for obtaining copies of petitions that citizens can review for fraud and grounds for challenges.
HB 1074: An Act to provide for limits on certain out-of-state contributions to ballot question committees.
Attacking: funding for ballot measure campaigns.
Intent: Amended to cap contributions from out-of-state residents to ballot question committees to $100,000; originally imposed an unworkable and unconstitutional limit on out-of-state contributions to ballot question committees.
SB 77: An Act to provide for a fiscal note for any initiated measure or initiated amendment to the Constitution that would have a fiscal impact on the state.
Attacking: initiative process.
Further delay circulation of initiative petitions by making sponsors wait for Legislative Research Council to complete a fiscal analysis;
Make it harder to circulate initiative petitions by requiring circulators to “provide notice to any person who signs the petition that the initiated measure or initiated amendment to the Constitution may have an impact on revenues, expenditures, or fiscal liability of the state or its agencies and subdivisions”;
Deter voters by cluttering ballot with fiscal impact statement; committee amendment limits statement to 50 words.
SJR 2: A Joint Resolution proposing and submitting to the electors at the next general election amendments to Article XXIII, of the Constitution of the State of South Dakota, relating to amendments to the Constitution.
Attacking: process of passing constitutional amendments.
Raise the vote required for the Legislature to put a constitutional amendment to a public vote from simple majority to two thirds of each chamber;
Raise the vote required by the public to amend the constitution from simple majority to 60%.
There a couple faintly pro-democracy measures in the hopper. One such exception to the Legislature’s anti-democratic rampage: Senator Stace Nelson has proposed a constitutional amendment that may increase voter power a smidgeon. Senate Joint Resolution 1 would put on the 2018 ballot an amendment to make the Secretary of Veterans Affairs an elected office instead of a gubernatorial appointment.
SB 171 would create a task force to study “government, campaign finance, lobbyist restrictions, and ethics,” the subjects of IM 22. (Status: passed Senate, referred to House State Affairs.)
I’m no fan of task forces, but I would prefer to see killed all of the above proposals on I&R and perhaps all of the “replacement” bills offered to compensate for the Legislature’s hasty repeal of IM 22 in favor of empaneling these task forces and conducting public hearings statewide to give voters another chance to tell legislators what they really want.
Last spring, Rep. Lana Greenfield (R-2/Doland) blasted the Deep Borehole Field Test, saying the Governor and the president of the School of Mines were pushing to bring nuclear waste to Clark County in her district without any input from the Legislature.
Right now, SDCL 34-21-1.1 requires that “The containment, disposal, or deposit of high level and nuclear fuel cycle wastes, defense wastes, nuclear wastes, radioactive substances, or radioactively contaminated materials or the processing of high level nuclear wastes” in South Dakota receive prior approval from “the Governor or upon his request the Legislature….” Rep. Greenfield amends that latter phrase to read “the Governor and the Legislature.”
Still, HB 1071 would open the door for activists to refer Legislative approval of a nuclear waste dump to a public vote. A referendum petition would suspend that approval until the next general election. However, one group of nameless nuclear waste opponents seems not to want to risk a statewide vote for fear of “deep-pocketed nuclear companies” flooding the state with campaign dollars:
A state wide nuclear referendum vote would cause millions in out of state money to flood in, in an attempt to squash any debate. Just keeping the non nuclear status quo in South Dakota would end up costing South Dakotans millions of dollars and a huge grassroots effort to fight back against an unwanted project [No Nukes South Dakota, “Our Nuclear History,” downloaded 2017.01.24].
Whether allowing the nuclear waste industry to focus their influence on lobbying the Legislature is preferable is open to debate.