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Las Vegas SUN

Today: June 19, 2002 at 0:50:10 PDT

S.C. Gov. Banned From Shipment Block

AIKEN, S.C.- Gov. Jim Hodges said he would abide by a ruling barring him from blocking a federal shipment of bomb-grade plutonium bound for South Carolina, but his anger was evident.

"I make no apologies for the fact that I have aggressively pursued efforts to keep plutonium out of South Carolina without the assurances that we need," Hodges said after the ruling Tuesday. "You want to talk about sad? That's a sad day for South Carolina when we cannot get the federal government to agree to keep its promises to us."

Hodges was reacting to the stinging rebuke he received Tuesday from U.S. District Court Judge Cameron Currie, who banned him from blocking the Energy Department shipments from the Rocky Flats weapons plant in Colorado to South Carolina's Savannah River Site.

"It is a sad day for South Carolina when the governor, who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, must be ordered by a court to obey it," Currie said.

Tuesday's ruling was a permanent injunction against the blockades. Currie ruled last week that physical blockades of the plutonium shipments are illegal and present a possible terrorist target.

The governor has appealed that ruling to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., and is awaiting a response.

The Energy Department wants to ship the plutonium to South Carolina to be converted into fuel for nuclear reactors. But Hodges worries that the program will never be funded, leaving the nuclear material in the state indefinitely.

Last Friday, Hodges dispatched state troopers to the Savannah River Site, near the Georgia state line, to begin inspecting vehicles for the radioactive material. The governor ordered authorities to prevent anyone from transporting plutonium into South Carolina.

Hodges filed a lawsuit last month to prevent the shipments. The governor, who is up for re-election this fall, has threatened to lie down in the road if necessary to block the trucks.

The issue has many political undertones. Hodges, a Democrat up for re-election, has long accused President Bush of trying to remove the plutonium from Colorado to help get Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., re-elected and restore GOP control of the Senate.


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