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
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.
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
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
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
"There are a number of public safety
concerns," Hodges' spokeswoman Cortney Owings said. "Tons of plutonium
would be traveling along interstates."