"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Public Interest Groups' Court Case Forces Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Conduct Public Rulemaking

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The public's right to comment on security
regulations at nuclear power plants has been restored as the result of a
lawsuit filed by Public Citizen and the California environmental group
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, Public Citizen said today.

The groups earlier this year sued the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC), accusing the agency of violating federal law on
rulemaking procedures when it issued new rules in 2003 on the "design
basis threat" (DBT) - the terrorist attack scenario that nuclear plants
are required to be able to guard against - without first notifying the
public and allowing an opportunity for public comment.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has now
issued an order that effectively tells the agency to provide the
rulemaking proceeding sought in the lawsuit. Technically, the order
holds the case "in abeyance" to give the agency an opportunity to make
good on its assurance to the court that it now intends to conduct a
proper rulemaking. If the agency fails to live up to that commitment,
the lawsuit would be revived. The order was issued Friday but attorneys
in the case first learned of it late yesterday when they received it by

The lawsuit asked the court to order the agency to conduct a notice and
comment rulemaking that complied with the Administrative Procedure Act
and the Atomic Energy Act. The agency responded that it was not
required to do so and that the court had no jurisdiction to order it to,
but after briefs were filed in the case and shortly before it was argued
before the appeals court on Sept. 10, the NRC reversed course and
advised the court that it now intended to conduct a rulemaking
proceeding. The court's order followed only a week after the argument.

"What the court has decided to do is wait and see whether the agency
follows through on its commitment to conduct a rulemaking," said Scott
Nelson, the Public Citizen attorney who argued the case. "We'd have
preferred that the court order the agency to engage in rulemaking, but
this order is nearly as good because it makes it pretty clear that the
court expects the agency to live up to its promises."

Yet to be determined is whether the agency's rulemaking will provide a
meaningful opportunity for public comment, given the NRC's penchant for
secrecy regarding security matters, and whether the comments received by
the agency are taken into account in recrafting the rule.

"We'll be watching the NRC closely to make sure they follow through on
the public's right to know," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public
Citizen's energy program. "This is really something they should have
done a year and a half ago when they issued the rule. It's a shame the
NRC continues to waste so much time in properly upgrading a rule that
was flawed even before September 11."

Storm Death Toll Passes 700 in Haiti

GONAÏVES, Haiti, Sept. 21 - Survivors of devastating flooding in Haiti wandered the mud-clogged streets here on Tuesday in search of food, and officials said more than 700 people had been killed.

A tropical storm swept north of Haiti over the weekend, inundating cities and sending deadly mudslides through towns and villages.

Officials at the Office of Civil Protection in Port-au-Prince, the capital, said that 709 deaths had been confirmed in the flood-stricken areas and that 1,050 people were missing.

Most of the dead were in Gonaïves, a coastal city of 200,000 people where large areas were flooded.

Relief supplies were starting to reach the worst-hit areas, but the pace was slowed by waterlogged roads and worries about security in a country that remains unstable after an armed revolt ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February.

In Gonaïves, half the population need immediate assistance with food, water and shelter.

The World Food Program sent 12 trucks with 40 tons of food to Gonaïves, up a road still waterlogged in parts, and hoped to start handing it out by Wednesday after ensuring that distribution points would be secure, said the program's regional spokesman, Alejandro Chicheri.

Haiti is chronically vulnerable to flooding because widespread deforestation has stripped the topsoil from its hills and mountains. Flooding in May killed about 2,000 people in Haiti.

The tropical storm also killed 11 people in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, and 2 in Puerto Rico.

The storm has strengthened to hurricane force and has meandered into the Atlantic, posing no immediate threat to land.