Super Collider Field Officially Down to Seven States
Jan. 20, 1988
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Energy Secretary John Herrington is telling one and all that politics will play no role in selecting the site for the planned $4.4 billion super collider atom smasher.
But it seems many politicians can't help bringing up the dreaded p-word, anyway.
Herrington announced Tuesday that he was accepting, without change, the December recommendation of a committee of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. The panel recommended sites in North Carolina, Illinois, Colorado, Arizona, Tennessee, Michigan and Texas as finalists for the giant installation.
Herrington also accepted New York's withdrawal, because of community opposition, of a site near Rochester recommended by the committee. However, he did not grant the state's request to substitute another site because, ''I just don't think that's fair to the other states.''
The recriminations began immediately in New York. A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo, Francis Sheehan, blamed Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., for the disintegration of the state's initial bid.
Moynihan came out against the Rochester site after area members of the House announced their opposition. He was followed by his New York colleague in the Senate, Alfonse D'Amato, a Republican, but the Cuomo spokesman described Moynihan as most responsible.
''The Senate is right now Democratic-controlled. Mr. Moynihan is an important member of the Senate,'' Sheehan said.
Politics was seen in the selection process even by some officials from states still in the running.
Rep. Bob Carr, D-Mich., whose district includes his state's proposed site between Lansing and Ann Arbor, observed: ''We have two states (on the list) with more electoral votes than Michigan (Illinois and Texas). And presidential politics may well play into this.
''Obviously, one of the sites is in the speaker's district down in Texas. And that's going to be a major political obstacle, it seems to me.''
In fact, Carr erred. The Texas site is not in the Fort Worth district of Speaker Jim Wright, a Democrat; it is in the nearby district of Joe Barton, a Republican.
The political labels don't matter, but community acceptance reflected in a bipartisan effort does, said Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas.
''The DOE wants this project built and one of the strong points of putting it in Texas is we are unified behind it,'' he said.
Herrington is scheduled to choose the winning site in July, political convention season, and confirm it in January, as the Reagan administration is leaving office.
Before July, department officials will visit each of the seven sites, paying particular attention to environmental impacts and soil conditions, Herrington said.
''The department found no justification for either rejecting or changing the academies' recommended list of sites, which in the judgment of the department was developed impartially and without bias,'' Herrington said.
He said the department will give briefings to the losing states telling them why they did not make the final list.
''To the best of my ability, this is a non-political process,'' he said.
Non-political the process may be, but Congress still has to appropriate the money - the department will ask for $363 million to begun construction in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
And one of the losing states, Mississippi, controls the congressional appropriations committees through the chairmanships of Democrats Jamie Whitten in the House and John Stennis in the Senate.
Mississippi officials are arguing that the academies' committee gave too much weight to amenity considerations such as the possibility of jobs for the spouses of the collider scientists. Whitten, Stennis and others in the delegation have written Herrington asking that the entire selection process be slowed down.
Twenty-five states spent millions developing proposals to house the collider installation because of the potential return - 3,000 jobs, many of them for high-level scientists; an annual budget of $279 million; practically no pollution after operation begins in 1996; and a peak construction force of 4,500.
Scientists at the facility will study atomic and sub-atomic particles, basic research designed to reveal the fundamental nature of the physical world.
In the experiments, beams of protons will be hurled through an underground tunnel 53 miles long and into each other, at energy levels 20 times higher than those now available.