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Hodges pledges blockade

Governor wants binding agreement with government

South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges is again ready to hit the pavement to stop plutonium shipments to Savannah River Site.

The governor met Tuesday with public safety and transportation officials to discuss options for blocking shipments of the radioactive metal, said Mr. Hodges' spokesman, Jay Reiff.

The meeting came one day after U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham ordered the shipments to begin in no less than 30 days.

Mr. Hodges has said he won't allow plutonium to enter his state until he has a legally binding agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy detailing how and when the agency would treat and remove the radioactive metal from SRS.

The governor has said he would personally lie in front of the trucks if necessary.

"This is really about whether South Carolina is going to allow the federal government to run roughshod over it," Mr. Reiff said.

"The governor is going to use every tool at his disposal to keep plutonium out of South Carolina until there is a legally binding agreement to keep the Department of Energy at its word," Mr. Reiff said.

An Energy Department official expressed surprise that the governor would take such a hard line.

"It's astonishing that on the first day Gov. Hodges would hold a meeting trying to build a better roadblock rather than working with us and members of Congress on legislation to buttress the agreement we have presented to him," said Joe Davis, an agency spokesman in Washington.

Tuesday's meeting included Mr. Hodges, state Public Safety Director Boykin Rose, state traffic czar Harry Stubblefield and representatives from the state's Highway Patrol and transport police, said Cortney Owings, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Mr. Abraham and the governor have fought for months over the planned shipments to SRS from the Energy Department's Rocky Flats site in Colorado.

The department needs to begin shipments soon to meet Rocky Flats' scheduled closure date in 2006, Mr. Abraham said. The two sides reached an agreement in principle last week only to begin fighting again over how to implement the deal.

The Energy Department wants Congress to make the agreement law. Some members of South Carolina's congressional delegation, including Republican Rep. Lindsey Graham and Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond, have pledged to craft such legislation.

"I think we can get the job done, and I am prepared to personally commit to fully engage in the effort," Mr. Abraham wrote Monday to Mr. Hodges.

The governor is willing to support a legislative remedy, Mr. Reiff said, but Mr. Hodges would prefer that the two sides enter a binding "consent decree" in federal court.

South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon, a political rival of Mr. Hodges, criticized the governor's stance Tuesday.

"He's pursuing this confrontational strategy when it's obvious that the Energy secretary wants to reach a legally binding and legally enforceable agreement."

Reach Brandon Haddock at (706) 823-3409 or

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