Warm-up Assignment No. 1 – Main Assertions
Public Policy Question: Should the government allow energy companies to use Native American land for the purposes of producing commonly-used energy sources?
EarthTalk. (2010, March 10). Native Tribes Run Risks Storing Nuclear Waste. Retrieved
February 18, 2013, from The Westerly Sun:
This newspaper article is an overview of the relationship between the government, private companies and Native American groups in regards to nuclear waste. The author initially states that Native Americans are exposed to hazardous waste much more often than the average American. This is because Native American reservations tend to be surrounded by nuclear test sites, uranium mines, power plants, and toxic waste dumps. The author then writes about the government’s view on the situation, saying that they are helping support people in poverty by giving them money in return for the use of Native American land (for exposing waste). A statistic is given that “twice as many Native families live below the poverty line than other sectors of U.S. society and often have few if any options for generating income.” Next, the author talks about how environmentalists view the situation. Environmentalists believe that the government and private companies should not store waste on the Native American’s lands because they are taking advantage of people based on their poverty. The Native Americans are misled with information and don’t know how destructive the waste will be to their land and people. Baylee Lopez, a member of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, shares his thoughts on the actions taken by the government and private companies. Next, the author writes about some of the recent history regarding the storing of waste on Native American reservations. In 2007, a Native American tribe nearly agreed to allow a waste area to be installed on their land for money, yet they ended up refusing the offer. This led to the government scaling back its efforts towards making Yucca Mountain (a mountain near the Shoshone tribe’s reservation) the nation’s sole repository of radioactive nuclear waste. The author finishes the article by writing about other environmental organizations that are working with Native Americans to convince them not to allow nuclear waste to be stored on their land. The author gives an example of the organization “Honor the Earth” and how they convinced the Goshute tribe not to allow waste to be dumped on their land as it would ravage their land and people with health issues.
Stroud, M. (2012, June 14). Wasteland: the 50 Year Battle to Entomb our Toxic Nuclear Remains. Retrieved February 19, 2013, from The Verge: http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/14/3038814/yucca-mountain-wipp-wasteland-battle-entomb-nuclear-waste
Matt Stroud wrote a terrific article on just about everything there is to know about nuclear waste, from its history to how it is created to government policies on waste. The article is lengthy and some of the information does not apply to my topic of Native American land rights in relation to nuclear waste. For example, the creation of the atomic bomb in SE Washington State does not contribute a lot to my topic. Yet there were other parts of the article that can contribute information to my project. Then, Stroud interviews a geologist that agrees with the use of nuclear energy. He also interviews someone who is against the use of nuclear energy; she is a professor of nuclear engineering, radiological sciences and biomedical engineering. Both of the interviewees have an immense amount of experience working with nuclear waste. John Rempe, the geologist, believes that nuclear waste has almost no effect on people. He would even feel comfortable having a waste container in his back yard. Therefore, nuclear energy should continue to be produced. Jean Kearfott, the professor, has different thoughts on the issue. She initially talks about how it is unknown how low-doses of radiation will affect a person and an environment over a long period of time; a test hasn’t been done that exposes someone to radiation for decades. She also doesn’t believe that it is likely that people would be exposed to high doses of radiation. Yet if people are exposed by some sort of accident – after all, human error is a constant – then there could be disastrous effects. She verified that comment by talking about an incident known as the Chernobyl disaster, where an explosion at a nuclear power plant spread radioactive particles into the air of western Russia. The first responders to the incident at Chernobyl suffered acute radiation syndrome. Their bone marrow stopped functioning, their bodies couldn’t produce new blood and half of them died within 60 days. People exposed to even higher doses of radiation can die within 5 days because their brains and nerves malfunction. Finally, Kearfott talks about how there are possibilities such as a truck driver crashing his or her vehicle while moving containers of waste. Another potentially destructive possibility would be if someone attacked a container of waste with an explosive and therefore unleashing a large amount of radiation throughout the area. Therefore, even though nuclear waste is conceived as “containable,” there are factors, like human error, that could result in the release of hazardous radioactive materials.
Lopez, B. (2004, September 1). Radioactive Reservations: The Uphill Battle to Keep Nuclear
Waste Off Native American Land. Retrieved February 14, 2013, from Nuclear Age Peace
Baylee Lopez, as mentioned earlier in the first entry of the warm up assignment, is a member of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Lopez wrote an article about the relationship between Native American land and toxic waste dumps. Lopez initially says that the government and private companies have disregarded and broken treaties, blurred the definition of Native American sovereignty and directly engaged in a form of economic racism parallel to bribery. Lopez addresses Native American populations and their rights to their land treaties. The most significant example of a treaty being ignored/broken is at Yucca Mountain, the proposed storage site for all of the nuclear waste in the United States. The Yucca Mountain lies on sacred land of the Shoshone people; they have the rights to the land based on the Treaty of Ruby Valley. The Shoshone people have sued the government, yet nothing has been done to halt the creation of the waste site. The government has attempted to supply the Shoshone people with monetary compensation for the use of their land. However, the Shoshone people have denied these offerings, as they would rather have their land nuclear free and healthy. Personally, I have read a number of documents regarding the building of the dump complex at Yucca Mountain and the problems that surround it. A lot of issues are brought up and addressed, from political to social to health risks, yet not one article mentioned that Native Americans own the rights to the land. Lopez goes on to talk about how the term “sovereignty” is skewed by the government toward Native Americans. In reality, says Lopez, the Natives don’t have control of their land. In a court ruling in 1973 called United States v. Blackfeet Tribe, the court issued a statement that “an Indian Tribe is sovereign to the extent that the United States permits it to be sovereign.” Basically, the government controls Native American power, essentially making them powerless. How do you fight against someone who makes the rules? With this power intact, the United States government bribes impoverished Native American tribes with financial compensations in order to take advantage of their land by installing nuclear waste sites. Since it is not technically United States land, there are less health restrictions. Therefore, there are fewer restrictions on building the waste complex. By giving Native Americans monetary compensation, it makes the government look as though it is doing a fair act and can even be argued as a good deed (by helping out an impoverished nation). Yet if the Native American people refuse the idea, the United States government can simply flex its power and do as it pleases. And this is America.
Pike, K. (2010, April 29). “American Indians Sue for Resources; Compensation Provided to
Others”. Project Sensored. Retrieved from http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/20-american-indians-sue-for-resources-compensation-provided-to-others/
The author, Keith Pike, initially lists a series of sources that he got his information from. The article starts off by addressing that Native Americans, for more than two centuries, have been cheated by the U.S. government and American companies. He backs up this information by citing an example from Utah. Oil companies operate at Montezuma Creek, which lies on a Navajo Reservation. A district court-appointed investigator, Alan Balaran, discovered that non-Native Americans in the same area received compensations that amounted to more than 20 times the amount of the Native Americans on the reservation. Pike goes on to write about how Native Americans have been routinely taken advantage of with actions like the government allowing private companies to unfairly repay Native Americans for the use of their land. In his investigation, Balaran discovered that as much as $137.5 billion dollars is owed as compensation to Native Americans. In relation, the Native Americans get nothing near the royalties they deserve, as most get checks from the government for a few cents to a few dollars in sporadic intervals. Pike goes on to write about certain examples of impoverished Native Americans and the lives that they live. From there, Pike writes about an example of a court case and how the government unfairly took advantage of Native Americans. The court case, Cobell v. Norton (1996), was for the reason of accounting for the money still due to Native Americans over the last 100 years; it was the largest class action suit ever filed against the U.S. government. By the end of the case, the Federal Judge proclaimed that he had never seen such government incompetence than the Interior Department had shown in administrating the money and representing itself in court. In 2001, Balaran (the investigator) made a surprise visit to the government warehouse and found pieces of shredded paper pertaining to Native Americans and compensations they were owed. Also, in the Bureau of Indian affairs, the same kinds of papers were being shredded daily. The government was hiding all of the evidence of the money they owed to Native Americans. Finally, Pike wrote that the Bush administration was also cited for allowing private companies to underpay Native Americans for the use of their land. The judge from the previous case ordered the government to complete a historic accounting for all funds in the case by January 6, 2008.
Murray, M. (2013, February 19). Speaker Cautions About Dangers of Nuclear Waste: Deep Geoplogical Repository. Retrieved February 19, 2013, from seaforthhuronexpositor.com: http://www.seaforthhuronexpositor.com/2013/02/19/speaker-cautions-about-dangers-of-nuclear-waste-deep-geological-repository
The point of this newspaper article is to understand the view of a project coordinator, Brennain Lloyd, who is working for an anti-nuclear waste organization. Lloyd gives public speeches in towns that have been asked to house nuclear waste by energy companies or the government. She expresses that by housing nuclear waste, a town and its population are subject to both economic and health risks. Lloyd first addresses the economic risks. She says that even though it seems like acquiring a nuclear waste facility will create economic upturn (due to payments from the company to the town for allowing them to store the waste there and also creating new jobs), it has the potential to create economic hardship. This is because there is uncertainty as to how the nuclear waste will interact with the barriers and how radioactive material will react in a closed environment (for example, in an underground storage container). With potentially hazardous reactions such as a radioactive waste leak from one of the barriers, people could flee the town, upstart businesses could leave, investors could be driven away, and the town could essentially become deserted. The risks of nuclear waste storage are unknown. Therefore, there is the possibility of driving out all forces of life either through death or fleeing if a hazard presents itself. Thus, it is not worth the risk. Lloyd goes on to point out an example from Japan, where an earthquake/tsunami allowed nuclear waste to spread across Japanese land and wreak havoc. Seeming that humans can’t stop natural disasters, it is impossible to protect nuclear waste areas from these actions; an earthquake could crush the barriers holding the waste and it could therefore harm life forms. Lloyd continues to point out possible health hazards of the waste areas. The waste would need to be traveled by truck from one area to another once it reaches a certain point in decaying. If a person commuting were to be stuck behind a truck carrying a load of waste for 30 minutes, it would be the equivalent of receiving two X-rays. Overexposure to radiation is unhealthy for humans and has been linked to cancer, internal bleeding, brain malfunctions, and premature death. Lloyd has a final note that nuclear energy should be phased out and energy companies should look into other forms of renewable energy.