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Our next witness is Ms. Claudine Schneider, Rhode Island Conser: vation Law Foundation.
STATEMENT OF CLAUDINE SCHNEIDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,
CONSERVATION LAW FOUNDATION OF RHODE ISLAND Ms. SCHNEIDER. I am Claudine Schneider, a resident of South County, R.I., and I will read my statement because it is much more concise than if I were to speak it.
I would like to begin by thanking Chairman Dingell, the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, and his very responsive and able staff, for the opportunity to express my concerns about the procedures of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), as they relate to one case in particular.
In 1974, approximately 640 acres of prime coastal property, referred to as the Charlestown Naval Air Station NAS-were declared surplus by the General Services Administration-GSA. It was discovered that the Narragansett Electric Co. was negotiating with the GSA for the purchase of this land in order to construct a nuclear powerplant. Having some knowledge of the National Environmental Policy Act-NEPA—and questioning the disposal process, I did some research, found a lawyer, and we filed a lawsuit against the GSARice v. GSA. The complaint filed in Federal district court addressed two points:
One: It appeared that in disposing of the surplus Navy land, the GSA was taking a major Federal action which should require an environmental impact statement.
Two: It was, according to the Federal Procedures Act, improper for the GSA to negotiate a sale without first offering the land to other Federal agencies, then to the State, then town, and last to arrange for disposal through an open bidding process.
The judge ruled, one, an EIS must be prepared; the GSA had violated NËPA; and, two, although the GSA had violated the spirit of the Federal Procedures Act, the plaintiff's did not have standing, so he therefore could not make a ruling on this aspect of our complaint.
The current situation is as follows:
One: The GSA is now preparing a request for a proposal for the contract to do the EIS on the disposal of the Charlestown NAS, There is no idea when this study will be completed.
Two: We have taken to the court of appeals that portion of the complaint dealing with the Federal Procedures Act. No ruling has been made as yet.
However, the GSA has readvertised this parcel of land, and has received the following:
(a) the Interior Department initially requested half of this parcel in 1974, more recently Secretary Andrus himself reiterated his agency's interest in this land.
(6) The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Postal Service have also asked for small portions, one, for setting up a research/experimental station and the other, to locate a post oflice.
(c) The town of Charlestown, who has twice voted nonbinding referendums against the construction of a nuclear plant in their town, would like to secure this area as a town center/academic/residential development.
(d) And finally, among potential bidders are the Narragansett Electric Co. for a nuclear power station, the Narragansett Indians, whose ancestors used the site as a ceremonial burial ground, and several former adjacent owners of the site, to name a few.
I fully recognize, due to the Pillsbury case, that this committee is unable to make any rulings on this particular situation at this time. However, it has been necessary to summarize these facts, so that you might have adequate background in order to act on a subsequent proceeding
Recently, the NRC has received, and docketed for review, an application for a construction permit from the New England Power Co. The Charlestown Naval Air Station is the proposed site upon which the company intends to build. Even though, as already explained, it is highly unlikely that the power company will ever own the land, yet the NRC is proceeding with the hearing process. When the NRC was asked how they could waste taxpayers' money by doing this, the reply was:
Your complaint really should go to Congress, who establishes the laws regulating nuclear power. If they (Congress) leave the NRC discretion, we must operate by the Commission's regulations.
So here I am before you today. It appears to be only good common sense not to put the cart before the horse. Utility companies are notorious for doing as much as they possibly can before the hearing process begins. This
clearly prejudices the case. There is no chance for a fair and unbiased discussion of the facts.
Please consider, many thousands of dollars have already been spent by the Rhode Island citizens to obtain what are already their constitutional rights. In the previously discussed case of Rice v. GSA, the plaintiffs were asking only that the laws that Congress has passed be obeyed. The NEPA is a full disclosure law and essentially a planning document which allows for balanced, comprehensive decisionmaking. NEPA also provides for public participation. But Rhode Island citizens had to spend money in court to have the Federal law enforced.
In recent rate proceedings, sponsored by the Rhode Island attorney general's office and the Public Utilities Commission, it was revealed that during 1976, $240,000 was taken from the Rhode Island ratepayers to advertise the benefits of the nuclear powerplant proposed for our State. The attorney general's office has raised this issue before the Federal Power Commission and contends that expenses to influence public opinion should clearly be borne by the stockholders and not, as at present, by the consumers at large. The utility has already spent at least $12 million also extracted from the ratepayer, on various studies for a plant that will probably never be built.
Now, because the NRC has chosen to proceed with the reviewing of the application and to commence the intervention process, the taxpayer is again being forced to intervene to assure that the issues surrounding the construction of a plant are fairly addressed. As you know, the intervention process is a costly one. Initially nine towns had petitioned the NRC for the opportunity to raise such basic questions as to whether or not the power company is financially able to undertake this project; or considering the increasing population of South County—how will a nuclear facility affect the social services, health and safety, and general quality of life that is so treasured in southern Rhode Island. Local town solicitors are often overworked or ill equipped to devote the time and research required for NRC proceedings. Extra staff are needed, thus extra dollars from the townspeople through their local taxes. Towns cannot predetermine the costs of intervening and at recent financial town meetings, they have been unable to squeeze out funds, and thus will be unable to raise certain issues on behalf of their residents.
And finally, such organizations as the Physicians Concerned About Nuclear Power, and the Coalition for Consumer Justice have been investing untold time and moneys to seek a fair and open hearing on the issues relative to the proposed Charlestown plant. Professionals and nonprofessionals alike have found it necessary to hire their own lawyers. A total of 31 organizations have sought official intervenor status and at least 1,000 additional individuals have requested the opportunity to make limited appearances. All adding up to dollars and time spent.
In conclusion, it is obvious that the Rhode Island citizen is being taken on a very expensive ride-with no destination in sight.
As previously discussed, it is unlikely that the utility company will ever own the proposed site at Charlestown. Nonetheless, the Rhode Island citizen is being forced to spend personal dollars to hire lawyers to follow the NRC proceedings; we are paying through our local taxes, for the towns to raise certain questions. As ratepayers, we are paying for the promotion of a nuclear power plant, and finally, we are paying through our Federal tax dollars for the NRC to undertake adjudicatory proceedings on a proposal that, it is nearly certain, will never materialize. For what are these dollars being spent ? For a fair hearing? The public fears that this will not be possible—that the Federal Government will find it necessary to justify the expenditure of taxpayers' dollars. However, it is not now too late to take some action.
On my own behalf, and on the behalf of the Conservation Law Foundation, the Coalition for Consumer Justice, Save the Bay, Concerned Citizens of Rhode Island, the Association of State Conservation Commissions, Physicians Concerned About Nuclear Power, Rhode Islanders for Safe Power, Aquidnick Island Ecology, and the numerous individuals and towns that share our concern, I request that the Subcommittee on Energy and Power act on the following recommendations:
One. Require the NRC to halt further consideration of the New England Power Co.'s, application of a powerplant on the Charlestown site, until the General Services Administration has completed their environmental impact statement on the disposal of the property, and until the appeals court has reached an opinion on the Federal Procedures Act. The actual status of this parcel of land will remain questionable until that time.
Two. In order to avoid similar situations in the future, require the NRC to adopt procedures that stipulate that no applications shall be considered unless the applicant has ownership, or reasonable assurance of ownership of the land in question.
Three. We request the financial burden be lessened for intervenors. Perhaps this committee could direct the NRC to set aside a portion of their budget to be used for legal fees incurred by those towns, organizations, or individuals who have gained intervenor status, because of acceptable standing and submission of reasonable contentions.
Thank you again for your time and consideration of these recommendations. I sincerely hope that you will choose to help alleviate this situation.
Mr. DINGELL. I am sure you are aware of my concern that the law be carried out on this matter.
Interestingly enough I sponsored not only NEPA but also the amendments to the Federal legislation on land disposal that deals with making such lands available for refuge purposes for fish and wildlife. We maintain a very active interest in the subject of your
discussion. Ms. SCHNEIDER. For that I personally thank you.
Mr. DINGELL. The thanks are not necessary. I wish to commend you because we have both had our difficulties on that matter but we will review your comments and statements most carefully and the staff will inquire most carefully into the points you raise and such things as we can do to be of assistance will be done. We thank you both. You have been very helpful.
We have the unfortunate event of a rollcall on the floor so I suspect under the circumstances, that we should adjourn at this time.
We thank you both. It has been a privilege to have you before us. The subcommittee will stand in adjournment until the call of the Chair.
(Whereupon, at 3:20 p.m., the subcommittee adjourned, subject to the call of the Chair.]