RACE to the Finish Line 

Environmentalists and waste-processing plant reach a compromise.

You have to give a little to get a little.

That was the sentiment of Memphis Truth founder Kelly Fitzpatrick after the City Council arranged a compromise between the environmental group and RACE, a radioactive waste-processing plant on Presidents Island.

After an hour and a half of negotiations outside council chambers, a compromise was reached: RACE could have a permit to stay open but could not operate an incinerator.

Officials at RACE hoped the council would approve a special-use permit that would allow the company to store radioactive waste at their facility and to run a radioactive waste incinerator. The company had also applied for a general special-use permit to store waste at a facility on West Trigg Avenue.

Environmentalists from Memphis Truth, the Riverview Collaborative, and the Sierra Club opposed the permits and hoped to see the facility shut down.

"We have mixed feelings," said RACE president Bob Applebaum. "We feel like, legally and technically, we're in the right. But the political reality is that just because you're factually right doesn't mean you'll get the votes you need." Applebaum says the company compromised so that its 200 employees would not lose their jobs.

As part of the compromise, RACE agreed postpone re-applying for an incinerator permit for three years. But Fitzpatrick says Memphis Truth is ready to fight again when the time comes.

"We didn't go this far to lie down after three years," said Fitzpatrick. "We will fight them forever." In order to get the West Trigg special-use permit, RACE agreed to try to purchase within six months three homes located within 648 feet of that facility. They also agreed to help relocate Creative Life Learning Center, a teen after-school program housed 778 feet from the facility.

"I don't know yet if anyone is living in those residences," said Applebaum. "We're supposed to make an offer to buy at the appraised value, but if the person there doesn't want to sell, that's fine."

Creative Life would not offer a comment as to whether or not they want to re-locate.

As for the incinerator for radioactive-waste, RACE is looking for options outside of Shelby County.

"We've got about a million bucks in it already, and we know it's safe," said Applebaum. "It's legally permitted [by the state], so we're not going to give up on that."

Also at the meeting, both agreed to drop existing lawsuits against one another. But Fitzpatrick says her group will be watching.

"We still have concerns about RACE," said Fitzpatrick. "Nothing is stopping them from driving that incinerator over to West Memphis, which would still affect our environment and national image."

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