Click Here!

State News

Condon says he can enter plutonium deal without Hodges

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Staff and wire

     COLUMBIA - With federal shipments of plutonium to South Carolina looming on the horizon, Gov. Jim Hodges met with public safety officials to talk strategy Tuesday while Attorney General Charlie Condon declared that he has the power to sign agreements with the Energy Department - regardless of the governor's position.
     Hodges received a 30-day notification of the shipments from Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham on Monday and raised the stakes by promising to "do everything at my disposal" to prevent the shipments from entering South Carolina without a legally enforceable agreement. But Condon said Tuesday that he has the power to enter an agreement with the Energy Department with or without Hodges' approval. Both Hodges, a Democrat, and Condon, a Republican, are candidates for governor.
     "I believe I can. I'm the chief legal officer, and we're in a legal dispute," Condon told The Post and Courier Tuesday night.
     However, he said he hoped Hodges would work with him to resolve the issue in a bipartisan effort. If not, Condon said he would consider going ahead with an agreement on his own. "I certainly intend to pursue the option - let's put it that way," he said.
     Condon said he agrees the state needs an agreement in writing. But he said Hodges lacks the legal authority to block the shipments.
     "The Energy Secretary has full authority under national security law to move plutonium around the country," Condon said. "(Hodges) doesn't want to do that; he doesn't want to have a confrontation. I don't think anyone in this state does." To avoid the showdown, Condon said, there are two options: federal legislation or a legally enforceable agreement called a record of decision.
     Condon said he spoke to Abraham Tuesday and that the Energy secretary expressed that he also wants a legally binding agreement. But Abraham will not agree to the consent decree Hodges wants because it could jeopardize national security, Condon said. The consent decree would allow a federal judge to oversee the process.
     Condon said he believes a record of decision would be binding.
     "I don't understand why we wouldn't want to take the Energy secretary up on his offer," Condon said. "...If we don't, we could end up in the worst of all worlds - that is, plutonium in this state without anything in writing," he said.
     Hodges, who has threatened to lie down in the road to block trucks full of plutonium from entering the state, met with state officials Tuesday to discuss options.
     "There are a number of public safety concerns," Hodges' spokeswoman Cortney Owings said. "Tons of plutonium would be traveling along interstates."

Click Here!

Click here to send feedback.

Copyright 2002 Charleston.Net. All Rights Reserved.