Tonya Kleuskens

The Department of Energy was looking at Deaf Smith County and also Swisher County, Texas at that time. So, we were just paying attention, listening with friends. But, I began to hear a lot of helplessness from people in the area, saying that there was nothing they could do about a federal project—that the property was going to be taken by eminent domain. And I think that I was just young enough and believed in the democratic process strong enough that I just felt like, “that can’t be true”. That it just can’t be possible. That’s when I picked up the phone and called Mark White’s Nuclear Waste Programs Office and Steve Frishman came to the phone. So I asked him if he would come and visit with a group of people if I could organize a meeting and he said he would. So I reserved the local community center and advertised it or just sent out a press release to the local newspaper and the local radio station. Our local newspaper was the Hereford Brand, because cattle operations are a very big investment in the county, and the radio station KPAN was run by a local family. We had a packed room when he came to speak. It really did surprise me. I think— like with so many issues today— that once someone says something, that empowers other people to say something. They’re just willing to participate and do their part.”

Tonya Kleuskens and her husband were famliy farmers in Deaf Smith County. She helped organize the Nuclear Waste Task Force, made up of the Serious Texans Against Nuclear Dumping (STAND) chapter in Amarillo, the STAND chapter in Swisher County, the POWER (People Opposed to Wasted Energy Repositories) organization in Deaf Smith County, commodity groups including the grain sorghum producers, wheat producers, sugar beet growers, and the corn growers. The Texas Association of Social Workers, Church Women United the Amarillo League of Women Voters all joined in. They were able to hire a lobbyist to oppose the high level nuclear dump. There are three sites under review, Texas, Nevada and Washington and the Speaker of the House Jim Wright, is a Texan and a majority leader, Tom Foley, is a Washingtonian. He noted the weak status of the small Nevada delegation. Three of the four were in their first terms. Furthermore, none served on the conference committee. I hope you understand. He concluded ‘it’s not going to Washington, and it’s not going to Texas.’ It was a lesson in power politics that Bilbrey would not soon forget. With a speed that surprised even Senate conferees, the House conferees proposed accepting most of the Senate language and taking it a step further. The Nevada site would be chosen, and the other two potential sites that had been recommended by the US Department of Energy would be dropped.

Picture of Tonya Kleuskens