SECC Shell Game
SECC is short for the Safe Energy Communication Council, a shell organization for a rainbow of environmental and Naderite groups. The SECC coordinates the activities of the Green movement on energy issues, especially against nuclear energy and for solar and conservation.
Coordinating national opposition to the Yucca Mountain repository is obviously a much larger agenda than could be handled by local grass roots efforts. The leadership of the groups that exist in Nevada (Citizen Alert, Nevada Desert Experience, the Nuclear Waste Task Force, etc.) are comparatively lightweight operatives and the SECC fills the centralized leadership void. Headquartered in Washington D.C. the SECC has pulled the strings that turned a relatively straightforward nuclear disposal problem in Nevada into a major test of national political will.
If your organization is politically correct, it belongs to the SECC:
Notable among the SECC affiliated groups are a number of organizations backed by Ralph Nader and his comrades in arms from previous anti-nuclear protests (e.g., Friends of the Earth). Nader has long been at or near the center of nuclear protest as shown in the previous chapter.
It is therefore unsurprising to find that the SECC is an outgrowth of the Citizen's Energy Project, a subset of Nader's Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project, which operated in the late 70s. Two members of the Citizen's Energy Project have remained a part of the debate over Yucca Mountain: Ken Bossong now of Public Citizen and Scott Denman, present director of the Safe Energy Communication Council
The SECC's political savvy and institutional muscle allowed it to orchestrate much of the Yucca Mountain protest through its environmental and Naderite coalition. Indeed, the SECC energy policy has had a strong impact on Yucca Mountain politics and on the actions of Nevada's two Senators. Moreover, the SECC's connections to the new administration, has influenced national energy policy under the Clinton presidency similar to the influence exerted by Nader's groups during the Carter years. The result has unfortunately been a retreat to solar solutions that seem in search of a problem, all in a last ditch effort to derail nuclear energy.
At first glance, the SECC coalition appears to form a formidable opposition to nuclear energy, and in the sense that these groups are able to concentrate political energy and sway the media, the SECC is truly an 800 pound gorilla. However, while the coalition claims to be the prophets of a new energy future, their energy philosophy has seen limited popular support, making it unlikely the SECC's ideas
Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project and SECC.
U.S. Public Interest Research Group and SECC
SECC and Frederick/Schneiders Inc.
will lead to significant reorganization of our national energy policy. The public shows little enthusiasm for the extreme energy conservation measures the SECC is willing to take in order to force an energy utopia on America. Changing to energy efficient lightbulbs (at a not so modest $15.00 a bulb) and increasing home insulation is one thing, but downsizing cars, eliminating nuclear energy and ploughing massive amounts of money into costly solar energy projects requires another magnitude of sacrifice.
We've duplicated the SECC publication list on the previous pages because it shows clearly who is involved in this advocacy group. Those writing for the SECC are mostly lawyers, politicians, professional environmentalists or some combination of the above. Other than Michael Oppenheimer (who is an atmospheric scientist, not a nuclear energy expert) and Robert Pollard (who does have nuclear industry credentials, but has spent the last twenty years fighting nuclear energy for the Union of Concerned Scientists), the experts of the Safe Energy Communications Council in general appear to be policy wonks. Lacking professional engineers on their staff, the SECC lacks practical expertise in energy matters.
Research into the backgrounds of the energy policy advocates who write for the Safe Energy Communication Council suggests energy policy has become a secondary issue in relation to social reordering for these writers. Quotes from SECC authors in their unguarded moments display a politicalinclination that seems more revolutionary than environmentally concerned.
"We're losing. Or at least those of us who once saw solar technologies as tools for stimulating social change have gotten somehow sidetracked.
Early supporters of solar energy were attracted to the technology because it seemed capable of promoting individual and community self-reliance as well as decentralization of energy production and control. Solar technologies appeared to be vehicles for redistributing income and thereby benefiting low-income citizens as well as other Americans." [Bossong, Ken; A Solar Critique, Citizen's Energy Project, 1980, p1)
. . . Today we are being forced to make a transition from the Industrial Age of nonrenewable resources to a new and still undefined age based once again on renewable sources of energy, and we will have to do so in little more than one generation. The radical change in the worlds view required to make this transition will have to be accomplished virtually overnight. There will be no time for polite debate, subtle compromise, or momentary equivocation. To succeed will require a zealous determination -- a militancy, if you will -- of herculean proportions. [Rifkin, Jeremy; Entropy - A New World View, Viking Press, 1984, p186]
Interestingly, Governor Miller of Nevada shows up on the SECC list as author of an article titled Surrendering Democracy to Nuclear Waste:
"High-level nuclear waste presents a future risk for a longer time than all past recorded history. It is imperative that democratic process, cool heads and objective science prevail in seeking to solve the problem." [Miller, Bob; "Surrendering Democracy To Nuclear Waste", Viewpoint, SECC, Bob Miller, 1992]
In fact, democratic process has been followed at Yucca Mountain, as witnessed in the fall of 1992 when Senator Bryan's filibuster to prevent language favorable to Yucca Mountain in the 1992 Energy Bill was defeated 86-6. Neither have "cool heads and objective science" necessarily been evident in the Nevada Nuclear Waste Project Office which Miller has directly overseen.
Miller's advocacy for the Safe Energy Communication Council ignored the fact that the people and organizations under the SECC umbrella vehemently oppose the Nevada Test Site, a source of jobs and patriotic pride for many Nevadans. Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and others from the SECC coalition have regularly illegally invaded the Nevada Test Site in opposition to NTS, creating conditions for a shutdown which would lead to the loss of approximately 30,000 jobs in Southern Nevada. The SECC affiliated environmental groups also have positions that are antithetical to mining interests, another crucial industry in Nevada. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt's crusade to increase grazing fees, a sore point in Nevada, also incubated among these groups.
Is the Safe Energy Communications Council an environmental group, or a movement bent on massively reshaping society? It is hard to tell from their literature which encompasses not only nuclear and solar issues, but also the fairness doctrine. It seems that energy is almost an after-thought in the SECC world view. Only if the world's energy supply is non-renewable and finite (i.e., only if nuclear power is cancelled) can the Green Revolution be forced to occur. One gets the feeling that the members of the SECC pray each night that a nuclear reactor fails, simply so they can justify forcing America to become an energy and environmental banana-republic dependent on solar collectors.
It is not clear Nevadans or the nation as a whole would knowingly agree to being returned to an agrarian solar-age society by the SECC. In fact, the SECC itself may not believe it has popular support for its positions because it rarely discusses its utopian Green world view, instead focusing on Washington lobbying to obtain its goals.
SECC GUERILLA WAR AGAINST YUCCA MOUNTAIN
Primary among the SECC's objectives is convincing Americans of the untrustworthiness of the Department of Energy, the evil intentions of the nuclear industry and the coming age of solar power. It has done this by actively courting support from politicians like former Senator Wirth, Congresswoman Claudine Schneider, Senator Bryan and Governor Miller in a traditional lobbying effort. More interesting in regard to its affect on the Yucca Mountain battle has been its non-traditional political insurgency techniques.
An example of this political gamesmanship is the coup the SECC pulled in exposing what is known as the Nevada Initiative. In 1991, the American Nuclear Energy Council (ANEC), the Edison Electric Institute, the American Committee on Radwaste Disposal (ACORD) and other trade organizations interested in the outcome of the Yucca Mountain repository began planning a media and political campaign, the Nevada Initiative, to combat the negative position of Nevada's politicians regarding the repository, and to educate the public about Yucca Mountain. Since the hysteria over Yucca Mountain was then at a fever pitch, revelations of an industry campaign to promote the repository were politically explosive.
Kent Oram of Oram, Ingram and Zurawski Advertising of Las Vegas along with the lobbyist Ed Allison prepared a proposal which outlined the strategy and necessary budget for the Nevada Initiative. One of the members of the Edison Electric Institute whose company's energy was derived from non-nuclear sources, leaked this document to the Safe Energy Communication Council. The New York Times broke the story first:
NUCLEAR INDUSTRY PLANS ADS TO COUNTER CRITICS
. . . The blueprint, prepared by the American Nuclear Energy Council, an industry trade association, was obtained by the Safe Energy Communication Council, an anti-nuclear group in Washington that said it received it from an executive in the nuclear industry who is critical of the campaign. [Schneider, Keith; New York Times, Nov 12, 1991]
In a follow-up press release dated November 13, 1991, Scott Denman of the SECC blasted the Nevada Initiative:
NUCLEAR INDUSTRY MEDIA BLITZ OF NEVADA REVEALED Washington, D.C. - A massive three year, $8.7 million nuclear industry campaign is underway to manipulate Nevadans into accepting a high-level nuclear waste repository. The plan is detailed in confidential documents provided to the Safe Energy Communication Council (SECC), and released today. In addition to a saturation advertising program to bludgeon Nevada with pro-nuclear ads, the industry sponsored campaign also employs a covert strategy of lobbying and public relations "attack/response" teams. Ratepayers from across the United States may foot the bill for the industry's campaign.
"The nuclear industry treats Nevadans like pawns in its self-serving and desperate chess game for revival," said Scott Denman, Executive Director of SECC. "Their plan hinges on a grossly cynical belief that with enough advertising and money, Nevadans will inevitably accept anything - including a nuclear dump in their state."
The three-year industry plan budgets nearly $8 per Nevada citizen: more than $4.4 for advertising; $3.36 million for consultants, political operatives and lobbying; $480,000 for a "media response team"; and $400,000 for tracking polls.
"The nuclear industry needs a quick fix to the radioactive waste problem before it can sell the American public on more nuclear power," said Denman. "It's counting on selling out Nevadans first."
The industry documents reveal that the industry has prepared "attack/response teams" of scientists to speak in television, radio and print advertising in an effort to convince Nevadans that a high-level nuclear waste dump would be "safe." A second "team" of media professionals would "be the vehicle for generating positive free media coverage," and convert "the press away from its opposition to the repository."
Studded with militaristic jargon, the major strategy document refers to the establishment of a "political beachhead" and programs to "neutralize the political resistance." The plan is to create a "sustained advertising program aimed at Nevadans" and "by softening the public opposition, the campaign will provide 'air cover' for elected officials who wish to discuss benefits." "A professional media attack/response team will be deployed" to "counter those who counterattack with misinformation." According to the document, "the primary target audience will be women, aged 25 to 49 - the group with the highest statistical potential for favorably affecting the polls if they can be informed, reassured and moved."
The industry campaign would be funded by assessments against each utility that owns nuclear power facilities, including the bankrupt Public Service of New Hampshire, and utilities that own reactors that have been shut down. The Edison Electric Institute, the utility industry trade organization, would collect the assessment with its regular dues and pass the campaign fees through to the American Nuclear Energy Council, the nuclear industry's lobbying arm, which would direct the "Nevada Initiative" media campaign. The U.S. Council for Energy Awareness, the industry's public relations group, is also involved in this effort.
"Nuclear utilities have evaded a reasoned debate about the real dangers of radioactive waste," said Denman. "But the industry is either incredibly naive or intolerably ignorant to assume that by simply unleashing an avalanche of propaganda, it can buy the hearts and minds of Nevadans." [Attachment I, Report of the Nevada Commission on Nuclear Projects (Sawyer Comission Report), 1992]
Interestingly, this press release was published as an attachment to the 1992 Report of the Nevada Commission on Nuclear Projects, showing just how dependent the state was on the SECC to generate negative press releases. However, this points out again that the opposition to Yucca Mountain is hardly a grass roots affair, for the SECC turned up at the center of many such press releases.
The SECC's hyper-reaction to the Nevada Initiative was curious. Until the Nevada Initiative, the pro-nuclear side of the story was distinctly absent from the debate because of lockstep anti-nuclear unanimity by the political and media culture of the State. This animosity was in part the result of a decade of efforts by the SECC to shut down all nuclear energy.
The SECC's real complaint about the Nevada Initiative seems to be that it was losing its monopoly status in the propaganda wars in Nevada. As a Washington Beltway headquartered organization devoted entirely to being an anti-nuclear "Communications Council", the SECC deserves little pity for suddenly being confronted by a similar, though opposite, Nevada based pro-nuclear political and educational campaign. After all, the SECC's own vigorous and well-funded anti-nuclear propaganda campaign had gone unchallenged in Nevada for many years and is in many ways responsible for the nuclear hysteria found in the Silver State.
There are a number of interesting things to note about the SECC response to the Nevada Initiative. First, Scott Denman's focus on linking the Nevada Initiative to an attempt to "sell the American people on more nuclear power." Nevadans themselves aren't necessarily against nuclear power, though polls show them to be opposed to the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste repository. In essence, Denman's comment was a Freudian slip in that it shows the true intent of the SECC is to cripple the nuclear power industry by opposing Yucca Mountain, not to save the people of Nevada from the dangers of the nuclear waste repository.
Also interesting is that the SECC was chosen as a recipient of the leak in the first place, showing the central position of this organization in the anti-nuclear movement. The question this poses is why the Nevada Initiative documents weren't leaked first to local Nevada news sources, if there is indeed a "grass roots" opposition to Yucca Mountain unmanipulated by outside special interests. Actually, Scott Denman, the principle source of the press release against the Nevada Initiative is a paid, full-time anti-nuclear activist with a staff of three and a number of unpaid assistants. Combined with the rest of the Yucca Mountain opposition coalition coordinated by the SECC, this creates a powerful organizational structure in most ways equal to the pro-nuclear campaign run by the American Nuclear Energy Council.
If the Nevada Initiative was studded with military jargon, it is little wonder. Greenpeace Action, affiliated with the SECC, has long run sophisticated infiltration and disruption activities at the Nevada Test Site and would need to be countered, if at all, with similar militaristic tactics (in fact, the title Greenpeace Action is meant to indicate this is the militaristic tactical wing of Greenpeace). Moreover, the SECC had engaged in counterespionage of its own to obtain the Nevada Initiative documents and it would be naive to believe that the battle for Yucca Mountain is anything but a full blown political war in which both sides have fought for advantage.
One advantage of the SECC over the public relations firms working for ANEC was that the environmentalists were given an inordinate amount of free press. For example, in a September 1993 article, Mary Manning of the Las Vegas Sun promoted the views of Martin Gelfand, research director of the the Safe Energy Communication Council:
"It could be the end of Las Vegas as we know it," he said. "It certainly isn't going to help the Las Vegas economy. . .
"Everybody comes up to me and says, 'What are we going to do with the waste?" I don't know.
"I'm not a scientist," he said. "I'm not an engineer. The industry just wants to dump it quick. The real answer is, we don't know what to do with it. That's why we need time."
A Cleveland resident, Gelfand said he can sympathize with Nevadans in their fight against the nuclear dump. He lives near a nuclear power plant built on an earthquake fault near Lake Erie. [Manning, Mary; Las Vegas Sun, Sept 1993]
Gelfand is a non-scientist, non-engineer, non-resident quoted authoritatively by Manning on nuclear issues in Nevada. Why this wais not viewed as external manipulation of Nevada's residents is unclear. In another authoritative article by Manning, the SECC's position is again forwarded:
YUCCA FUNDS SLASH SOUGHT
"A national coalition of energy, environmental and public-interest groups has called for the Clinton administration to cut $305.7 million from its high-level nuclear waste project until an independent panel reviews the program.
The Safe Energy Communication Council recommended in its "Sustainable Energy Budget" Wednesday that the Department of Energy stop work and spending for underground tunneling at Yucca Mountain, temporary storage facilities, transportation, quality assurance and other programs." [ Manning Mary;, Las Vegas Sun, Nov. 18, 1993 p5A]
The question this poses is whether Nevada and national nuclear energy policy is being formulated through normal political and technical institutions, or whether a small energetic staff of solar energy activists in Washington are dictating policy. Through proper positioning in the media, connections to a strategically placed state agency (NWPO), and coalition building among powerful environmental lobbies, it appears the SECC and a few allies have come quite close to strangling the nuclear industry by crippling the nuclear waste repository program.