In recent months Entergy, owner of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, has been part of an aggressive effort led by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the industry’s leading lobbying arm and policy organization, to eviscerate the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s policy on environmental justice. The NEI, in which Entergy is a major player, is blaming the NRC’s EJ policy for stalling proposed projects — a few of which Entergy is involved in. Meanwhile, in a strongly worded letter to the Entergy Corporation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People supported their Claiborne County, Mississippi Chapter’s opposition to Entergy’s bid for new reactors in Port Gibson, MS on the grounds that the proposal constitutes environmental racism. Finally, as has been discussed often, Indian Point’s nuclear fuel cycle disproportionately affects low income communities and communities of color.
All of this comes on the heels of a recent campaign by Entergy which seeks to exploit the principles of environmental justice. Entergy’s campaign — which targets elected officials and the low income communities and communities of color they represent in the NYC metropolitan area — touts what they call a solid environmental justice record and falsely claims that closing Indian Point would harm these communities. Entergy was harshly criticized by local elected officials last October when Entergy’s campaign targeted Westchester County legislators up for re-election.
“Next time Entergy officials and their friends are spinning tales about the company’s environmental justice record and trying to convince local residents that Indian Point is good for them, just remember the strong armed tactics Entergy and the rest of the nuclear industry are using behind the scenes to eliminate environmental justice protections,” said Alex Matthiessen, executive director of Riverkeeper. “Local civic leaders and elected officials should demand an end to Entergy’s racially divisive and exploitive tactics.”
“Entergy’s campaign targeting low income communities and communities of color with misinformation is despicable,” said Timothy Logan, urban infrastructure coordinator for the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “Entergy’s failure to outreach to local environmental justice advocates is further proof of their insincerity,” said Logan. “On behalf of members of NYCEJA, a citywide coalition of community-based organizations fighting for environmental justice, we stand in solidarity with the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition in their effort to close Indian Point. The IPSEC coalition has made a concerted effort to address new generation in an environmentally just manner.”
“In the guise of defending environmental justice to gain support in Albany, the Entergy corporation has been working to erode federal environmental justice policies,” said Christine Vanderlan of Environmental Advocates of New York. “New York’s leaders should reject Entergy’s sham attempt to justify the continued operation of its nuclear reactors.”
“Entergy’s attempt to co-opt the principles of environmental justice in their desperate effort to keep Indian Point open is shameful and disingenuous,” said Wenonah Hauter, Director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “The company’s involvement in the effort to disembowel the NRC’s environmental justice policy betrays its true intentions.”
“Entergy is attempting to hide an increasingly dangerous nuclear agenda behind a divisive smoke screen of environmental justice,” said Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Watchdog Project with the Washington, DC-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “Were Entergy and the industry efforts sincere they would not be seeking to simultaneously undermine national environmental justice policy on all nuclear licensing issues,” he concluded.
Available upon request:
Background information is available at http://riverkeeper.org/campaign.php/indian_point – under the press release section
02-06-04 NAACP letter to Entergy criticizing the company’s proposal for new reactors in Mississippi
10-24-03 letter from Westchester County Exec. Spano to Entergy criticizing their campaign targeting county legislators and their constituents from low income communities and communities of color
Statements from Westchester County legislators condemning Entergy’s campaign
For more information regarding the proposed changes to the NRC’s EJ policy visit the websites for Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program at: http://www.citizen.org/cmep/ and Nuclear Information and Resource Service at:http://www.nirs.org
Yielding to pressure from the NEI, the NRC has announced a revised policy for evaluating matters of “environmental justice” in licensing and other regulatory actions. The proposed revisions would severely hinder interveners’ ability to cite, as legal grounds for opposing federal licenses or regulations, disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects on low-income communities and communities of color.
Entergy is a major player within the NEI. Donald C. Hintz, president of Entergy Corp. serves as chairman of NEI’s board of directors. Gary J. Taylor, chief executive officer of Entergy’s nuclear businesses, serves on the NEI’s Strategic Issues Advisory Council. The NEI represents the members of two industry consortiums — both of which Entergy is a member — whose license applications have been stalled or denied because of environmental justice contentions. The two consortiums are Louisiana Energy Services (LES), which is seeking a license for a uranium enrichment facility to supply commercial nuclear power plants, and Private Fuel Storage (PFS), which is seeking a license for a high-level nuclear waste storage facility.
All of the communities targeted for the LES facility have been economically depressed. In 1989, LES announced plans to build their plant near the small town of Homer, Louisiana, a predominantly African-American community. Facing strong opposition from local residents, and following an unprecedented legal ruling from an NRC licensing board which found that the siting of the plant violated environmental justice guidelines, LES withdrew its application in 1997. More recently, LES has targeted rural, low-income communities in Tennessee and New Mexico with a plan to build a similar plant. LES failed in their attempt in Tennessee and is still pursuing their proposal in New Mexico.
Since Entergy will have to wait a decade before it can send Indian Point’s irradiated fuel to Yucca Mountain — situated on American Indian land in Nevada — Entergy and the other nuclear corporations within the PFS consortium have targeted the Goshute Tribal Reservation in Utah for a “temporary” nuclear waste dump. PFS wants to “temporarily” store 40,000 tons of commercial high-level radioactive waste fuel (nearly the total amount that presently exists in the U.S.) next to tribal members living on the small reservation. The PFS proposal is the latest in a long tradition of targeting American Indian communities for such dumps.
The change in the NRC’s EJ policy represents the agency’s acquiescence in the nuclear industry’s effort to end environmental justice as an issue in nuclear licensing consideration. In December 2002, the NEI demanded that the NRC revamp its environmental justice policy in a manner that would diminish the policy’s legal weight. The powerful industry lobby recommended, rather brazenly, that “any contentions related to environmental justice currently being adjudicated should be dismissed, and no contentions related to environmental justice should be admitted in any future licensing proceedings.”
NAACP letter to Entergy
Claiborne County, MS Chapter of NAACP has intervened in the NRC’s Grand Gulf expansion proceeding and the national office is supporting the chapter’s contention that the proposal constitutes environmental racism. The NAACP’s February 6, 2004 letter states that Entergy’s application “is not only one of the first attempts by a nuclear utility to build new reactors in the U.S. in more than 25 years, but it also raises serious environmental justice issues for the nearby community…which is already disproportionately impacted by nuclear utilities.” In the letter, the NAACP urges the withdrawal of the company’s permit application. In addition to representing the members of the LES and PFS consortiums, NEI also works on behalf of those companies — including Entergy — which seek an “Early Site Permit” for a new nuclear reactor. At stake for Entergy is their Early Site Permit application for the expansion of the Grand Gulf nuclear power station in Port Gibson, MS. Among Entergy’s eight nuclear plant sites, Grand Gulf impacts the highest percentage of people of color and low-income citizens. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Claiborne County, MS is 85% African-American with 33% living under the poverty line; average per capita income is $11,000 per year.
Indian Point’s nuclear fuel cycle disproportionately burden communities
Finally, one last point regarding Entergy’s weak EJ record: Indian Point’s nuclear fuel cycle burdens low income communities and communities of color. For instance, Indian Point’s low-level radioactive waste is sent to a facility in Barnwell, South Carolina — a low income, rural, nearly 50% African-American community where a hundred-acre radioactive plume is threatening the community’s single source aquifer. Indian Point’s high-level radioactive waste is slated to be sent to a permanent repository on Shoshone land and a temporary site on Goshute land.
___________________________________  http://www.epa.gov/compliance/environmentaljustice/
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines Environmental Justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.