Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Monday, May 21, 2001
House committee blocks waste dump bill
From Staff and Wire Reports
PECOS, Monday, May 21, 2001 -- A Texas House committee has voted to
block a bill that would establish a low-level radioactive waste dump
in West Texas.
The Senate bill also would have allowed the U.S. Department of Energy
to ship waste to a separate proposed dump in Texas.
The House Calendars Committee, which sets bills for floor debate, voted
5-3 late Sunday not to schedule the Senate bill in the House. That effectively
kills the legislation by Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock.
The Senate approved the measure earlier this month.
Five House Democrats on the calendars committee voted against the bill.
"It took a great deal of courage by these members of the House to stand
up and say publicly that we're opposed to it," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, Texas
director of the consumer group Public Citizen, which lobbied against the
Since the settlement of a lawsuit between Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists
and Utah-based Envirocare earlier this year, the odds have declined that
a site located eight miles north of Barstow would become the home to the
state's radioactive waste dump.
Envirocare had sought to locate an aboveground site there beginning in
November 1999, but gave up rights to the site as part of their settlement
with WCS, which hopes to locate the waste dump on land it owns in Andrews
County, six miles east of Eunice, N.M.
Plans for the Barstow site were dealt a further blow when an amendment
to the Senate bill was approved earlier this month that barred any low-level
radioactive waste site from counties bordering either the Pecos River or
Devils' River in West Texas and within 100 kilometers (62 miles) the U.S.-Mexico
border. That amendment, by Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, was also killed
as part of Sunday's action by the House Calendar Committee, and would have
to be re-introduced into any future legislation on radioactive waste, though
local rancher Clark Lindley said the current bill could still make it to
the floor of the House.
"It remains possible that WCS will get (representative) Gary Walker to
attach the Senate bill to legislation to come before the House. But the calendar
does not permit anything past today," said Lindley, who has been involved
in the fight against the Ward County waste dump site.
Shane Cunningham, legislative assistant to Walker (R-Plains), said "I
know they're still pushing to get it to the floor," but added "I don't think
we're doing anything towards attaching the Senate bill to any other House
measure scheduled for a vote."
Walker represents District 80 in the House of Representatives, which includes
both Reeves County and the WCS site in Andrews County.
Smith predicted the legislation will return, possibly even in the final
week of this session tacked onto some other bill.
"We're all for a responsible way of dealing with our radioactive waste,
but this was an irresponsible way of dealing with that problem," he said.
The original Texas Radioactive Waste Compact stated that only waste from
sites in Texas, Maine and Vermont would be eligible for disposal at the state's
waste site. But the Senate bill included an amendment added on by Sen. Teel
Bivins, R-Amarillo, which would have authorized a second site to handle U.S.
Department Of Energy radioactive waste. Opponents feared that the government
and other states would seek to use this second location for disposal of their
radioactive waste materials.
Bivins' amendment was also opposed by Duncan, who said such a provision
had killed the legislation in previous sessions.
"We are relieved, because we didn't want 300,000 cubic feet of DOE waste
brought into Reeves County," Lindley said.
Duncan, whose District 28 in the Texas Senate includes northern Reeves
County, said his legislation offered effective, strong safeguards to safely
dispose of both state and federal waste.
"It's not something we can forever ignore," Duncan said.
Currently, the state has about 1,200 sites where low-level radioactive
waste is stored. Setting up the compact would allow for the waste to be stored
and managed at one site.
Low-level radioactive waste is a byproduct of medical, research and industrial
activities. It also is produced through the operation of nuclear power plants.
Mexico continues holding Presidio man in slay case
PECOS, Monday, May 21, 2001 -- HOUSTON (AP) - As a Texas grocer remains
in a Mexican jail on a murder charge, some residents along the border
question why he is still in custody despite testimony that prosecutors'
only witness - a prostitute addicted to heroin - was jailed the night
she says she witnessed the killing.
Jesus Manuel Herrera Jr., a lanky 42-year-old who goes by the nickname
Junie, was held without bond Monday on charges that he murdered a Mexican
"We are disgusted with what is happening; that's how the people feel,"
Maria Teresa Oates said as she shopped at a clothing store on the main street
Herrera is accused in the slaying of Jose Luis Ortega, a reporter for
the Semanario Ojinaga. Herrera and his father own the H&H Supermarket
Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, urged that
the United States review the case with Mexican officials for possible inconsistencies.
Herrera's friends in Presidio have maintained he is innocent and that
the case against him is weak and that the main witness was jailed on Feb.
19 when Ortega was murdered.
Peaceful protests have twice closed the international bridge between the
Carlos Spencer, the owner of Spencers' clothing store who attended school
with Herrera's father, said he believes the Mexican government is just after
Proclaiming "Junie is innocent/Set Junie free," bilingual posters have
been nailed to telephone poles and trees and taped to store windows throughout
Rosaries are recited nightly at the town's Catholic church. Car antennas
and door handles are festooned with yellow ribbons.
Hundreds of residents blocked the international bridge the night of May
4 after a judge ruled that there was enough evidence to hold Herrera. But
protests stopped when Mexican officials threatened to move Herrera to the
state prison in Chihuahua City, about 120 miles away.
"Poor guy, everybody in town is for him," said Elida Martinez, a desk
clerk at the Three Palms Inn in the city of fewer than 4,000 people.
Herrera was arrested at a car-racing track on the edge of Ojinaga, the
Mexican town across the river from Presidio. As he was preparing his hot
rod for a drag race, a team of Chihuahua state police agents handcuffed him
and told him he was under arrest.
"I thought it was a joke," Herrera told the Houston Chronicle.
Herrera, who lives with his parents, maintained during an interview from
the Ojinaga municipal jail that he was home the night of the killing, an
account confirmed by his mother, father and older sister.
"It's unbelievable," said Herrera's criminal defense lawyer, Adolfo Baca,
of Chihuahua City, the state capital. "This is the first time I have had
a case when I have a client like Junie, where everybody is for him - where
everybody is mad at what they did to him."
Front's storms cause damage in Panhandle, Central Texas
From Staff and Wire Reports
PECOS, Monday, May 21, 2001 -- A cold front that arrived in the Pecos area
overnight dropped temperatures by over 40 degrees from their highs
on Sunday and is expected to send them down into the 40s tonight.
The strong cold front, which brought snow to Denver and caused power outages
in Colorado and Kansas, only produced high winds in the Trans-Pecos region,
but to the east storms dropped hail up to four inches in diameter and created
high winds overnight that damaged some homes and buildings in Central and
High temperatures today in Pecos were only expected to reach 70, but the
forecast calls for highs back in the 80s by Tuesday.
Storms did move through the Panhandle, where a 75 mph gust was recorded
at Dumas and a 58 mph gust moved through the Dalhart airport.
In Dumas, many trees and power lines were toppled by winds.
The winds in the Pecos area caused some blowing dust problems this morning,
but the dust problem was not as bad as on Saturday morning, when high winds
that arrived along with brief rains caused near-zero visibility for drivers
along Highway 17 south of town.
Along with drivers, the winds also caused problems for people at Eagle
Stadium who were participating in the annual American Cancer Society "Relay
For Life." However, the clouds that came with the front ended up leaving
only .05 inch of rain in the area, according to the Texas A&M Agricultural
In Central Texas, a house was destroyed and car windows were damaged near
Floresville late Sunday as thunderstorms triggered by the cold front moved
through the region.
More wind damage was reported in Atascosa County, where the roof was torn
off a house.
Four-inch-diameter hail fell near Stockdale, the National Weather Service
Trees were also toppled and power lines blown down during storms in Central
Texas, including the areas around Llano and Austin.
A movie theater sustained some roof damage in Travis County near Austin.
A 72 mph gust was recorded at a school near Pflugerville.
Hail up to 3 1/2 inches was reported near Round Rock.
High Sunday 97. Low this morning 53. Weekend rainfall at the Texas
A&M Experiment Station .05 inch. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Low
in the mid 40s. Northeast wind 5 to 15 mph. Tuesday: Mostly sunny.
High in the lower 80s. Southwest wind 5 to 15 mph. Tuesday night: Clear.
Low in the mid 50s. Wednesday: Partly cloudy and warmer. High in the
lower 90s. Thursday: Partly cloudy and warmer. Low from the mid to
upper 50s. High in the lower 90s.
Hector Chavez, Felipa Matta and Loy Albert Wells
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
Associated Press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.
Copyright 2000 by Pecos Enterprise