Memphis Activists Stop Radioactive Waste Incineration in Low Income Area
February 24, 2006
Although RACE entered into a compromise in October 2005 that stopped their plans for a waste incinerator in Memphis for at least three years, their attorneys were hard at work in December to bypass the agreement and sneak by approval for a permit. Fortunately, when the Health Department attorneys received the RACE request to complete construction, they agreed with the City attorneys and determined that the compromise agreement still applies in full. In February, the Health Department responded to RACE with an affirmative no; hopefully RACE will soon realize that their plans to build the incinerator in this low income area have been stopped.
October 11, 2005
Memphis activists are celebrating a victory in their efforts to stop a nuclear waste incinerator in a low income area in the city. After several cancellations and postponements by RACE, the Memphis City Council finally convened on October 11 to take up the matter of whether to issue Special Use Permits to the company for a radioactive waste. After a pre-meeting round of negotiations led by Councilman Ricky Peete, RACE agreed to a compromise with local residents and their representative organizations, Memphis Truth and Riverview Collaborative. Through a reworking of the permit applications, the negotiated settlement is a victory for local residents because it denies approval of the incinerator and the storage lot. (In an effort to avoid a loss, RACE had applied for only two permits rather than the three required). Although the settlement does not shut down the company’s current business, RACE must take steps to mitigate their ongoing operations and cannot even apply for another permit for at least three years. Local residents, who were supported by Sierra Club’s legal team and environmental justice program, will continue to keep a close eye on the company to make sure that it is complying with environmental laws. Congratulations to local residents for stopping the incinerator!
July 14, 2005
On Thursday, July 14, the Land Use Control Board handed RACE a major setback when it voted not to approve two Special Use Permits for their radioactive waste project. Local residents and Sierra Club members attended the sessions, and were pleased with the good news. Now the permits will go before the Memphis City Council with a “no” vote from the LUCB and a “no recommendation” from the Office of Planning and Development. Local activists are working diligently to organize petition drives and comment letters in opposition to the plans. Stay tuned for details.
June 1, 2005
Industrial facilities often burden nearby residents with physical danger, serious health effects, and reduced property values, and sadly are frequently built in communities that lack socioeconomic power to stop the developments in the first place. In Memphis, local environmental justice activists are celebrating a huge initial victory because the local Office of Planning and Development has recommended an “indefinite delay” for considering a nuclear waste incinerator on Presidents Island. Radiological Assistance Consulting and Engineering (RACE), the company seeking the permit for incineration, has proposed to process radioactive waste generated by hospitals, nuclear power plants, and other industries from around the nation. However, the company was recently cited for numerous violations and locals doubt the company’s ability to safeguard against potential hazards such as the way they handle and store waste, risk of spills, and increased air pollution. Sierra Club’s Environmental Justice Program has joined local Sierrans to work with community groups to fight the unnecessary risks to the surrounding community and to raise public awareness on the dangers of radioactive waste incineration. The recent decision means that the city will continue to explore all of the issues surrounding the permit, including environmental justice, before moving forward.
Details and Documents:
Memphis & Shelby County Health Department response to RACE
February 24, 2006
Letter denying request because it violates the agreement
RACE letter to Health Department
December 19, 2005
Letter requesting permit extension although agreement prohibits any new permits for three years
Editorial: Burning issue defused
October 17, 2005, The Commercial Appeal
RACE will stay, less incinerator
City Council OK's agreement for 3-year delay on facility
October 12, 2005, by Tom Charlier in The Commercial Appeal
No new incinerator on President's Island
October 12, 2005, WMC Channel 5
Memphis City Council and local business reach compromise
October 11, 2005, Eyewitness News, Channel 30
Compromise calls for no incinerator on President's Island
October 2005, WREG Channel 3
See other "Safeguarding Communities" cases.