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.
Now, with the Governor and other players working to bring the Borehole project to Haakon County in District 27 and rousing similar concerns from folks in West River, Rep. Greenfield has brought House Bill 1071 to subject any high-level nuclear waste disposal project to Legislative approval.
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.”
Again showing her party’s rejection of people power, Rep. Greenfield does not provide for a public vote on nuclear waste. South Dakotans gave themselves that power by initiative in 1984, exercised that power in 1985 to stop South Dakota’s entry into an interstate low-level nuclear waste management compact and kill a nuclear waste dump proposed for Edgemont, then lost that power in 1987 when the Legislature repealed the 1984 initiative.
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.
HB 1071 would have no effect on the Deep Borehole Field Test, since, everyone involved with the project has said from Day One, this project by contract will involve no nuclear waste. HB 1071 would simply provide one more guarantee that all the Boreholers are doing is testing the feasibility of drilling perfectly straight holes three miles deep.
Three other factors may complicate siting the Borehole project northeast of Philip. According to Citizens United for a Non-Nuclear South Dakota, the Philip City Council voted to rescind its letter of support for the Borehole at its January 3 meeting, pending what it learns at upcoming public meetings. The Midland town board rescinded its letter of support for the project on January 10. (The vote was 2–1, with the two Fosheims on the board voting to rescind and board member Flom opposing the reversal. 26 individuals interested in the Borehole attended.) And yesterday, Donald Trump pulled Mines president Heather Wilson out of the lobbying mix by nominating her to be Secretary of the Air Force. Wilson has connections to the nuclear-industrial complex that Rep. Greenfield claimed may have motivated her to push for the project.
Wilson, the Philip and Midland rescissions, and HB 1071 will likely come up tonight at the first public meeting on the Borehole project hosted by Rapid City engineering firm RESPEC and its Borehole partners in Philip at the American Legion building from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.