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The Brief: Jan. 5, 2011

Thirty-six states' worth of nuclear waste has found a home — in Texas.

Two new reactors, shown at the upper left-hand corner of this artist's rendering, could be added to the Comanche Peak nuclea…

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Thirty-six states' worth of nuclear waste has found a home — in Texas.

On Tuesday, a state commission capped off a heated political battle by voting to allow the state to import radioactive waste from three dozen states, a major blow to state environmentalists.

The Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission, which manages the state's yet-to-be-built nuclear waste landfill in West Texas, delivered a victory to dump owner Waste Control Specialists, which argued that an arrangement allowing the site to collect refuse from Texas and only one other state, Vermont, would hurt its profits.

The nuclear industry celebrated the vote. Representatives from the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade group, called the vote a "a positive step forward" and a "major milestone," according to The Wall Street Journal. Only three other sites in the U.S. accept such refuse.

Environmentalists vowed to fight the decision in court. Opponents of the dump have argued that, among other concerns, the waste presents a risk to a nearby aquifer that serves as a major source of drinking water for a number of states.

Texas politics also wormed its way into the controversy. Harold Simmons, a major investor of Waste Control Specialists, has donated at least $1.12 million to Gov. Rick Perry since 2001, the Austin American-Statesman notes, and the governor appoints the commissioners. The governor's office and the commission, though, have denied any conflicts of interest.

CULLED:

  • The Hidalgo County Democratic Party has state Rep. Aaron Peña square in its sights after his recent defection to the Republican Party. This week, the county party formed two political action committees aimed at unseating Peña: Keeping Hidalgo Blue, aimed at electing Democratic candidates, and the not-so-subtly-named Committee to Defeat Aaron Peña, which will help fund Peña's Democratic challenger in 2012.
  • Texas' Republican congressional freshmen — Francisco "Quico" Canseco, Blake Farenthold and Bill Flores — say they'll be leaving their mark on the 112th Congress, which convenes today.
  • Two prominent county GOP groups — Dallas and Tarrant — have joined a number of conservatives calling on House Republicans to hold a caucus vote for speaker before the Legislature convenes next week.

"John Bolton's endorsement is about as meaningful as Michael Bolton's endorsement."Eric Bearse, a Republican consultant and adviser for Speaker Joe Straus, on the former U.N. ambassador's endorsement of conservative challenger Ken Paxton. The Austin American-Statesman reports today on the race's increasing national profile.

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