In a major development in the growing Sierra Blanca controversy, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver is quoted by the Texas Tribune as saying, “There is no question that there was a real environmental justice aspect to the Sierra Blanca site.”
Weaver’s explanation for Bernie’s aggressive push to dump Vermont’s nuclear waste on a low income Latino community is flimsy:
“We were assured that regulators would not pick a site that would be harmful to the environment or local communities in Texas,” Weaver said.
But Bernie knew exactly where the site was:
The town name Sierra Blanca was mentioned over 58 times during the course of the debates on the bill. It’s highly doubtful that Bernie Sanders didn’t know exactly where they were going to dump the toxic waste from Vermont.
The most egregious and inexcusable aspect of the Sierra Blanca scandal is what Bernie did after progressive hero Paul Wellstone inserted language into the Senate bill giving the community legal rights to oppose the dump.
Bernie strongly supported stripping out Wellstone’s provisions and returning to the original bill that he co-sponsored (and aggressively promoted) which gave the Sierra Blanca community no rights to fight back.
If history tells us anything about minority communities they seemingly always get the short end of the stick. Flint, MI is one such community that comes to mind. In this case, the community of Sierra Blanca didn’t have any real political clout and they were reaching out to Mr. Sanders for help. Mr. Sanders could have stood behind this very poor Hispanic community, but as his response to the protesters revealed, he chose the political expedient route.
A new Texas Tribune article includes quotes from environmental activists and lawmakers who fought the bill:
“It reflects very poorly on him,” said longtime environmental justice activist Dr. Robert Bullard, dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University and the author of Dumping on Dixie. “Shoving this down people’s throats is … a classic case of rich people from a white state shifting something they don’t want to a poor minority community somewhere else.” Former U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso remembers being frustrated with Sanders over the dispute, describing the Vermont senator’s views on it as “insanely callous.”
Even Bernie supporter Gary Oliver calls the Sierra Blanca issue “dirty.”
We raise it because environmental justice matters, especially in light of Flint, and because Bernie has spent weeks impugning Hillary Clinton’s integrity with his Wall Street dog whistle while getting a pass for something far more troublesome than a paid speech.