ALT/Buffalo Alternative Press - August 10, 1998 
 
                      BEATING OFF CANiT
                    by Joseph Schmidbauer
 
The environmental community was rejuvenated this past week. On Tuesday,
July 28 , The Buffalo Community Foundation sponsored a forum to discuss
the most important environmental issues and concerns in Western New
York. The keynote speaker was Paul McClennan, retired environmental
reporter for the Buffalo News. The focus of his talk was the failure of
the mainstream press (locally the Buffalo News) to cover environmental
issues. He called for a new commitment to environmental journalism.
   
On Friday, July 31, the 20th anniversary celebration of Love Canal was
held in Niagara Falls. Lois Gibbs, spoke of the health dangers of
resettling the neighborhoods surrounding Love Canal and other former
toxic sites. On Saturday she lead a march through the Love Canal
neighborhood.
   
On Friday, July 31, Buffalo Beat's lead story was WNY's Nuclear Legacy
Leaving at Last by Natalie Green, the editor of Buffalo Beat. The story
is about the clean up of the low-level nuclear waste in Tonawanda . The
story is a feel good tale of grassroots environmental success and the
remediation of a nuclear waste site returning it to good public use.
Unfortunately it is a fairy tale constructed on political disinformation
and press release journalism of the lowest order.
   
Ms. Green, fails to report that the cleanup at Ashland sites, 1 & 2 are
under litigation by F.A.C.T.S. (For A Clean Tonawanda Site), Inc. a
grassroots organization that was formed in response to the failure of
Department of Energy (D.O.E.) to carry out an open public environmental
review process.
   
The suit is the most significant lawsuit to come out of Western New York
since Love Canal. The suit is support by the (*)Atlantic Coast Legal Fund,
(sic) a major environmental non-profit organization.
       (*) Should be Atlantic Coast Legal Foundation
 
THE ISSUES OF THE SUIT ARE:
 
a. United State Army Corps of Engineers has no authority to make the
decision on the clean up of the Tonawanda site. Under the Atomic Energy
Act of 1954, as amended by UMTRCA only the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
(NRC) has authority to make clean up decisions for these byproduct
materials.
   
b. The site is being cleaned up at a lower standard . The clean-up is
using the Department of Energy standard that requires the removal 42,000
cubic yards.
   
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission standard would require the removal of
172,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil.
   
The real question is the Fiscal Year 1998 Energy & Water Appropriations
Bill which transferred management of Formerly Used Sites Remedial Action
Plan (FUSRAP) to the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers (USACE), legal under
Atomic Energy Act of 1954. The suit will have a direct impact on other
similar sites across the United States.
   
The present clean up is a not complete remediation by NRC standards. 
Another critical point absent in the Beat article is that a large portion
of the nuclear waste in Tonawanda will remain at the others sites;
Linde/Praxair, Seaway and the Town of Tonawanda landfill. They are not
included in this remediation plan, though they were part of the D.O.E.
original review.
   
The transfer of management of the FUSRAP raises questions about a
political end run around the NRC and a way to find a quick fix political
solution to a very serious environmental problem. The consequences are
the transfer holds the public health to a lower standard.
   
Buffalo Beat's article is a feel good celebration of what is a serious
degrading of nuclear clean up standards and is morally obscene. It also
creates the misconception that grassroots environmental groups are in
support of the present cleanup. This is not the case.
   
Before filing a suit in federal court, F.A.C.T.S , and other
environmental groups have lobbied for D.O.E. for a more open review
process and a complete cleanup. F.A.C.T.S. was formed in 1994 in
response to the suspension of D.O.E.'s Tonawanda environment review
process.
   
In March of 1996, three environmental groups, F.A.C.T.S., Sierra Club's
Niagara Chapter, and the Buffalo Greens called for a resolution by local
governments to ask for a thorough clean-up of the Tonawanda site.
(Resolution calling for Thorough Cleanup of Tonawanda Nuclear site
presented to local government, Alt/Buffalo Alternative Press, March 96).
In May of 1997, F.A.C.T.S. filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
litigation against DOE in Federal District Court for withholding
information pertinent to public review process.
   
THE FACTS ABOUT COALITION AGAINST NUCLEAR MATERIALS IN TONAWANDA (CANiT)   
 
Ms. Green in Beat refers to CANiT as a group of grassroots environmental
advocates which is not the case. The CANit group is composed of local
government officials. The present chairman is Richard Tobe, Erie County
Commissioner of Environment and Planning, other members are Town of
Tonawanda supervisor Carl Carlabese, Rep John LaFalce, County
legislature Chuck Swanick, Town of Tonawanda council member Ray
Sinclair, and other local political figures.
   
CANiT's stated goal for the site is to reuse and economic development. 
In October of 1996 Former DOE assistant secretary, Mr. Grumble was
brought in by Rep. John LaFalce to discuss development of the river
front portion of the site. At a CANiT meeting, Thomas Grumble asked if
any banks have attended a CANiT meeting. Ray Sinclair, Town council
member (State Senator Mary Lou Rath representative to CANiT), answered
no. He went on to say, the developers only require the public's
"perception" to be that a clean up has made the site safe.
   
The role of CANiT in the Tonawanda clean up has been viewed with
suspicion by other shareholders and environmental activists groups. 
Over the course of the review process CANiT has been criticized for
holding secret meetings with Department of Energy officials.  (FACTS
Charges CANiT with Placing Politics Above Environment, Alt/Buffalo
Alternative Press, December. 95) & (FACTS Concerned about CANiT's closed
meeting, Nov. 29, Metro Community News ).
   
The Beat article raises questions of disinformation by CANIT members and
government officials and mainstream media (and so call alternative
media) regarding truth of the about Tonawanda clean-up and the failure
to full inform the public.
   
THE TRANSPORTATION OF NUCLEAR WASTE
 
The transportation and disposal of Nuclear waste is currently the
hottest and bloodiest environmental issue. The transportation of nuclear
waste through populated areas and the danger of an accident are grave
concerns. In Germany it mobilized the Green Party to organize mass
protests and resulted in a ban of nuclear waste transportation.
   
There is a network of environmental activist groups around the country
actively protesting the transportation of waste through their
communities. One group is Citizen for Alternative Radioactivity Dumping,
144 Harvard SE, Albuquerque, NM, 87106.
   
Because there is a great deal of money to be made in nuclear waste
disposal there are numerous companies willing to accept nuclear waste,
but there are serious issues regarding their ability to safely manage
it.
   
Beat's article misrepresents the cold reality of nuclear waste disposal
by stating; "In the end , not only did CANIT find takers for their
radioactive materials, they found competition for it, which drove down
the cost of transport."
   
A corporate strategy for waste disposal continues to be get the money,
dump, go bankrupt and run and then get government to clean up the mess.
West Valley is a result of Getty Corporation accepting nuclear waste for
reprocessing is an example of that strategy and it is costing taxpayers
billions of dollars and continues to be a major environmental concern.
   
Jim Rauch, a member of F.A.C.T.S. questioned the legality of the
Tonawanda waste transfer to White Mesa Mill plant in Utah. White Mesa
Mill is not a licensed nuclear waste storage facility and the waste was
below minimum standard for reuse.
   
Mr. Rauch position was confirmed in a Buffalo News article, Aug. 8/98,
Utah may not accept any further waste from the Town of Tonawanda
   
The article quoted Ms. Lamb, spokesperson, for the Utah Department of
Energy, "Our concern is that the facility where they are sending this
material to is not an approved disposal facility.'   Her department
claims that allowing the material to be stored at the White Mesa Mill
would present a danger to public safety. The News article further,
points out there is only one licensed nuclear waste facility in Utah.
 
SUMMARY
   
The difficulty of covering environmental stories is compounded by the
technical complexity of the issues.
   
But the stories nine out ten times are about grassroots community
group's struggles against the power of corporations and their powerful
influence over all levels government and the media.
   
They are fighting because, in a primary way, they have seen their
friends and relatives become ill and die from industrial toxins.
   
The 20th anniversary of Love Canal was like a reunion of old friends,
from all over the state. Many of them continue to fight for
environmental justice at great cost themselves, because, as Lois Gibbs
said to me, "Now it's about the children; we see babies one to four
years old with cancer and dying. Corporate America continues to put
profit over public health."
   
In Buffalo Beat, Green irresponsibility refers to the work of FUSRAP as
an environmental success story. A statement almost absurd in the
discussion of the disposal nuclear waste with half life of 6,000 -
500,0000 years. Since World War II, the amount of the background
radiation has tripled. Four out of ten Americans with get cancer
throughout their life time. The real question is are we going to survive
of our nuclear legacy?
   
Ms. Green's article celebrates the struggles of Love Canal and West
Valley, at the same time it advocates reuse (resettlement of a toxic
site) and presents a false tale of nuclear waste disposal in its
support. Buffalo Beat has taken local environmental journalism one step
further into negative propaganda. I don't think this is what Paul
McClennan had in mind when he called for a new environmental journalism.
 
                  

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