“Bump the Dump,” anniversary essay
By Debbie Bigelow, CCAC
Thirty-two years ago this coming April 5, Concerned Citizens of Allegany County (CCAC) and the Allegany County Nonviolent Action Group (ACNAG) turned back a final attempt by New York’s Siting Commission to locate a nuclear waste dump in our county.
CCAC had big plans in 2020 with a full day of events to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the stand at Caneadea Bridge, but the plans fell victim to the pandemic. Another 30th anniversary is now upon us.
Following the termination of Siting Commission efforts, New York State filed suit to challenge the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Act Amendments of 1985 (the Act).The Supreme Court heard arguments in New York v. United States on March 30, 1992 and ruled on June 19, 1992. The Rehnquist court concluded 6 to 3 in favor of the petitioners that the “take-title” qualification of the Act “would ‘commandeer’ state governments into the service of federal regulatory purposes”** (Justice O’Connor writing for the majority) and therefore violated the 10th Amendment of the Constitution and the “guarantee” clause of Article Four. The Court let two other provisions of the Act stand.
Pretty dry stuff. But how did this important case come about? CCAC’s lawyers and leaders persuaded the State to file the suit and indeed had the outlines of the case prepared well before the suit launched. My purpose is to remind readers of what came before: the many-months-long efforts by the people, in concert, to protect our most valuable natural resources from unwelcome pollution.
Some of those who responded “My name is Allegany County” when asked to identify themselves are no longer living, but many are still with us. Let’s honor the grandparents, the arrestees, the marchers, the unnumbered supporters, many wearing mushroom masks, planning, recording, provisioning, driving farm equipment, reporting, riding horses, and helping in so many ways. We who have benefitted from their efforts must go beyond recognizing with our gratitude what the Bump the Dumpers did. We must make sure we pass along the memories, the stories, the knowledge, the tradition of action in community for a common cause, in defense of our precious natural environment.
The threats to our pristine soil, water and air are mounting – so are the opportunities to take action. We remember the work of all the activists who took part 32 years ago. Do you know a Bump the Dump veteran? Be sure to say “Thank you.” Above all, don’t forget to tell your grandchildren.