Texas governor Rick Perry tried to sideline a state commissioner who opposed expanding the scope of a nuclear-waste landfill owned by one of the governor's biggest political donors, Reuters has learned.
Bobby Gregory, owner of a wildlife ranch and landfill company south of Austin, had opposed a plan to let 36 states send nuclear waste to a 1,338-acre site in Andrews County.
On the other side of the issue was billionaire Harold Simmons and his company Waste Control Specialists LLC, which stood to gain millions of dollars from accepting out-of-state shipments. Simmons had donated over $1 million to Perry's gubernatorial campaigns.
A report in the Los Angeles Times in August examined the case of the Texas waste site and Perry's ties to Simmons, a conservative who funded the Swift Boat campaign that helped torpedo John Kerry's presidential bid.
Perry maintains his appointments are based on merit, and Simmons is inclined to help any conservative Republican, spokespeople for the two said.
In any case, the January vote by the eight-member Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission was key to the future profitability of the nuclear landfill.
Reuters has learned that late last year, after it became clear that the commission might block Waste Control's request to truck in waste from around the country, Perry's appointments chief, Teresa Spears, offered commissioner Gregory an alternative job -- a prestigious appointment as a regent of a state university.