Mr. President, it is often useful to compare the public statements
of Government officials with their private statements. Such a
comparison can say a great deal about an official's true motives,
not to mention their character. Last week, in response to a question
I posed for the public record, the Department of the Interior
provided me with a copy of a memo written by Deputy Secretary
of the Interior John Garamendi to his boss, Secretary Bruce Babbitt.
This memorandum was dated February 21, 1996, and it concerns the
Ward Valley low-level waste disposal issue.
For those who
do not know, Ward Valley is the site of a low-level radioactive
waste facility licensed by the State of California under the Federal
Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act. The site sits on the Bureau
of Land Management land in a remote and sparsely populated area
of the Mojave Desert. But the Department of the Interior reversed
an earlier decision to sell the land to California, and has insisted
on study after study to achieve endless delays.
radioactive waste is piling up at hundreds of urban locations
all across California. It is stored in basements, stored in parking
lots, stored in trailers, stored in warehouses, and temporary
shelters. It is on college campuses, it is in residential neighborhoods,
it is in hospitals--sites that were not designed for permanent
storage. As long as the waste in these temporary locations in
populated areas is where it is, it is subject to accidental radioactive
release from, fire, earthquakes, and floods.
is understandably concerned about the health and safety of Californians.
That is his job. He is frustrated by the delays California has
faced in trying to get this facility open, and so am I.
I am further
frustrated by the fact that the President's nominee to be the
Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Mr. John Garamendi, appeared
before our committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee,
on July 27, 1995, and testified under oath that Ward Valley and
the issue should and would be quickly resolved. Mind you, this
was July, 1995.
It may interest
my colleagues to know that Ward Valley was scrutinized by two--not
one, but two--environmental impact statements under NEPA, and
two biological opinions under the Endangered Species Act. Although
all these environmental reviews have been favorable to the Ward
Valley facility, the Secretary of the Interior continues to opt
for further studies rather than just transferring the land to
In 1994, having
seemingly exhausted the studies available to delay the process
under NEPA and the Endangered Species Act, the Secretary turned
to the National Academy of Sciences and asked for yet another
study. But in May 1995 the National Academy of Sciences study
was complete, and again it was favorable to the Ward Valley site.
appeared that Secretary Babbitt had little choice but to transfer
the land, and announced his intention to do so in May 1995. Environmentalists
bitterly complained. Greenpeace even picketed the Secretary. Movie
stars and pop singers rallied against the facility. It did not
matter what the science said. The facts didn't seem to matter.
It was simply good politics in California to oppose a radioactive
waste site and I guess the Secretary did not like the unfavorable
press he was getting at the time.
politics of Ward Valley seems to loom large in another memorandum
that we have uncovered, going back to 1993. I have a memorandum
to the Secretary from October 19, 1993, that speaks to the prevailing
mindset at Interior, and it says:
And I quote:
addresses only the politics of Ward Valley. I can imagine no
scenario that allows us to go forward with the land transfer
and retain credibility with Boxer and the enviros."
So to keep themselves
out of hot water with environmental groups, Deputy Secretary Garamendi
had to devise a new way to delay Ward Valley while simultaneously
waging a public relations and political campaign against the site.
As far as John
Garamendi was concerned, a new excuse for a new study and further
delay simply had to be found.
So in February
1996, the Department of Interior evidently struck gold, or thought
they had. A former low-level waste facility in Beatty, NV, was
determined to be `leaking.'
fact the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey told him that
you could not relate Ward Valley with the Beatty, NV, site, Deputy
Secretary Garamendi knew a good excuse for another study when
he saw one and a PR campaign to go with it.
and radiological factsheets were prepared by the Department for
the press and the public, factsheets that were later criticized
by the chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the errors
and misinformation they contained.
were held where Deputy Secretary Garamendi announced that new
tritium tests would be conducted, and another new EIS would be
performed because of so-called new information about the Beatty,
These new studies
and the lawsuits that would surely follow might take years.
But what were
Interior's true motivations? Did Interior ever intend to transfer
the site under their watch? Was Interior interested in the public
health and safety or good PR and political advantage?
I now have the internal memo that cuts through the public statements
and press releases to provide clear insight into the Department's
motivations. Let me read this memorandum for my colleagues. It
is dated February 21, 1996,
"FROM: John Garamendi.
"SUBJECT: Ward Valley:
are the Ward Valley [press] clips. We have taken the high ground.
Wilson--Meaning Governor Pete Wilson--is the venal toady of
special interests (radiation business).
It goes further
"I do not
think Greenpeace will picket you any longer. I will maintain
a heavy PR campaign until the issue is finally won."
here is the Deputy Secretary of Interior engaged in a PR campaign
to portray the Governor of California as a venal toady. For those
in this Chamber who may not know the precise definition of a `venal
toady,' it means a deferential, fawning parasite who is open to
A venal toady.
That is Secretary Garamendi's characterization of the Governor
of California, or the goal of his PR campaign. I am not sure which.
Is this what
Deputy Secretary Garamendi calls the high ground? Is it taking
the high ground to call for study after study and create delay
after delay while ignoring all the studies that show the site
is safe so far?
Is it taking
the high ground to keep radioactive waste spread around 800 locations
in California subject to some accidental release, a flood, fire
or earthquake, where literally millions of people could be exposed
to radioactivity, or finding a site and put it there, which we
have given California the authority to do?
Is it taking
the high ground to say you are working to protect public health
when you are, in fact, endangering the public's health?
Is it taking
the high ground to pretend to be pursuing a careful deliberative
process following standards of good Government when, in fact,
you are waging a ruthless PR campaign in which misstatements and
half-truths are used?
am not the one claiming that misstatements have been made. President
Clinton's own selection as chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,
Dr. Shirley Jackson, has highlighted the Interior Department's
misleading errors and misstatements in her letter to me of July
22, 1997, which I ask unanimous consent be printed in the Record.
no objection, the letter was ordered to be printed in the Record,
to view letter as published on NRC web page (http://www.nrc.gov/OPA/reports/babbitt.htm)--Ed.]
Mr. President, I might add, I did not seek this letter from the
NRC. It came unsolicited. Perhaps one might give the Department
the benefit of the doubt and recognize that it is human to err.
But then you encounter a memorandum such as that of February 21
to the Secretary and the Department's intent becomes obvious.
This is nothing
more than a political and public relations game. Secretary Garamendi
seems to be saying: Let's not worry about the waste or danger
it may pose. If nothing is done, that's fine. Let somebody else
take care of it on their watch. But let's just make the Governor
of California look like a `parasite open to bribery,' as the definition
of `venal toady' describes.
I believe that
the Department of Interior has absolutely no intention of transferring
the Ward Valley land until they are ordered to do so by the Congress
or the courts.
If the Senators
from California and I cannot work out something with respect to
land transfer legislation, we will either have to have a floor
fight of some kind or be content to let the courts decide the
my colleagues to recognize the significance of the administration's
attitude toward the Ward Valley issue and refer to the memorandum
that I have highlighted of February 21, 1996, from John Garamendi
to Bruce Babbitt where he criticizes, in inappropriate terms,
the motivation of the Governor of California and suggests to the
Secretary that he does not think Greenpeace will picket him any
So again, Mr.
President, the terminology, referring to the Governor of California
as `the venal toady of special interests,' deserves reflection
by my colleagues on the total inappropriateness of such a memorandum
from the Deputy Secretary, John Garamendi, to the Secretary of
the Interior, Bruce Babbitt.
I yield the floor.