Those committed to ending South Carolina's role as nuclear waste dumping ground for the rest of the nation owe Rock Hill attorney Ben Johnson a tip of the hat.
Johnson recently was honored by the South Carolina Wildlife Federation at its annual Conservation Awards banquet. The award was for his work as chairman of the state Nuclear Waste Task Force that oversees interstate shipments of low-level radioactive waste to the landfill near Barnwell.
Johnson, who was appointed to the task force in 1999 by then-Gov. Jim Hodges, became its chairman in 2000. He later was asked by Gov. Mark Sanford to continue in that role.
In that capacity, he was instrumental in promoting a compact that would limit the amount of low-level nuclear waste entering the state. Later, he played a key role in persuading the Legislature to uphold the terms of that compact despite intense lobbying to reopen the state to more waste shipments.
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South Carolina signed a compact with Connecticut and New Jersey in 2000 that would allow only those three states to use the Barnwell landfill after this year. The agreement also reserves approximately 200,000 cubic feet of landfill space for waste from South Carolina's nuclear facilities, including four proposed new nuclear plants.
But last year a bill was introduced to keep the Barnwell site open to the nation's waste for another 15 years. Energy Solutions of Utah, the landfill's operator, and officials representing Barnwell County lobbied hard for the bill.
But when the House Agriculture subcommittee held hearings in March, Johnson testified for the compact, opposing the extension. In the end, the committee voted 16-0 to reject the bill.
We join the Wildlife Federation in saluting Johnson for his long-standing commitment to protecting the state's environment, and particularly for his efforts to prevent a resumption of nuclear waste shipments to the state from across the nation.
Local attorney Ben Johnson has long been committed to protecting the state's environment.