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The Daily Tar Heel

Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?

Because Durham County and Wake County officials aren't as concerned with urban sprawl and preserving the environmental integrity of their counties, Orange County officials should stop trying to plan the county's growth and stop trying to leave us some green space.

And if Durham County and Wake County want to walk off a bridge, Orange County should just follow them right off it.

TaxWatch, a Chapel Hill-based watchdog group that advocates "intelligent use" of taxpayer dollars, seems to want Orange County officials to always follow the lead of officials in surrounding counties.

In a letter to the Orange County Board of Commissioners, TaxWatch members said, "(Commissioners) spent $140,000, so they can challenge something that Durham County and Wake County don't seem to be worried about."

That something is Carolina Power & Light Co.'s proposed Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant waste storage expansion. And if Durham and Wake officials aren't worried about it, then why should our representatives?

In that case, if there's a Nazi concentration camp in your neighborhood and none of your neighbors are worried about it, then you shouldn't worry about it either.

Of course CP&L is not purposely trying to create some kind of nuclear holocaust; Orange County officials and CP&L officials just disagree about the safety of expanding the waste storage at Wake County's Shearon Harris.

But the analogy still stands: Simply because not everyone else thinks there's a problem, it doesn't mean that if you do think there is one you're the one who's wrong.

You could argue that Wake and Durham county officials have more of a vested interest in Shearon Harris, because their constituents live closer to the plant. But when it comes to a nuclear accident, a few miles won't make a difference.

There are many issues Orange County's commissioners address that go unnoticed in most other counties. It's no coincidence that Orange County is arguably the most progressive county in North Carolina. TaxWatch is concerned about the fact that Orange County is going through a legal battle with CP&L. Orange County officials don't want the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow CP&L to use more of its waste storage facilities until the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board does more research into the safety of the expansion.

If the storage expansion goes ahead, Shearon Harris will be the largest nuclear waste storage facility in the United States. A small accident could wipe out a 50-mile radius. And Orange County is within a 50-mile radius.

Orange County commissioners are elected by Orange County residents to represent (Surprise!) Orange County residents. While the 200 members of TaxWatch might not be worried about a little more nuclear waste, other county residents are.

It's not a waste of taxpayer dollars if the commissioners are using those taxpayer dollars to serve the people who pay those tax dollars -- the people they're elected to serve -- even if not everyone agrees.

The NRC has said the chances of there being an accident at Shearon Harris are "remote and speculative." The ASLB is in the process of defining "remote and speculative."

But before the ASLB could give CP&L the go-ahead or a thumbs down, the NRC staff said Shearon Harris could be used to store more waste. By going over the ASLB's head, the NRC staff breached protocol.

Orange County officials are only trying to make sure things are done correctly. We should be thanking them for it, not telling them to stop.

Columnist Erin Mendell can be reached at

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