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Linked Arms

A Rural Community Resists Nuclear Waste

Thomas V. Peterson

Publication Year: 2002

Through character development, snappy dialogue, and vivid scenes, Linked Arms tells the story of a rural people’s successful struggle to keep a major nuclear dump out of Allegany County in western New York. Five times over a twelve-month period hundreds of ordinary people—merchants, teachers, homemakers, professionals, farmers, and blue collar workers—ignored potential jail terms and large fines to defy the nuclear industry and governmental authority by linking arms in the bitter cold to thwart the siting commission through civil disobedience. The hearts and minds of the resisters emerge in the narrative, as we find out why these people found civil disobedience compelling, how they organized themselves, and what moral dilemmas they addressed as they fought for their convictions. While becoming more engaged in the resistance, they confronted critical issues in contemporary America: democratic decision making, environmental policy, legal rights, corporate responsibility, and the technology of nuclear waste. Some of the book’s highlights include: conversations that took place between Governor Cuomo, Assemblyman Hasper, and the protestors, which thoughtfully probe who should bear the financial burden of a failed and dangerous technology; the scientific and technological issues discussed between Ted Taylor, a nuclear physicist who was one of the key people in the Manhattan project, and the leaders of the resistance; and the citizens’ initiation of a lawsuit that eventually reached the Supreme Court and abrogated the central provision in the 1987 congressional law that mandated states build low-level nuclear dumps across the country. These dialogues and vignettes illustrate how the civil disobedience and dogged determination of the people of Allegany County changed the course of history.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-v

Contents

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pp. vii-

Maps and Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xv

In a rural county in western New York, seventy miles south of Rochester, ordinary men and women not only kept a major nuclear dump out of their area, but also provided a model of resistance for communities across the United States. Merchants, teachers, homemakers, farmers, and blue collar workers ignored potential jail terms and large fines to challenge the nuclear industry and the government.

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Prologue

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pp. 1-7

THE SHERIFF OF ALLEGANY COUNTY leaned back in his chair and considered his chances for reelection. Three months earlier he had resolved to put thoughts about his future on the back burner and focus on the difficult task that lay ahead. He had, in fact, convinced himself that his career in law enforcement was over. Only a couple of weeks earlier he had told the district attorney at lunch ...

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1. The Struggle Begins

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pp. 9-35

NEARLY A YEAR BEFORE Sheriff Scholes’s meeting with the state police from Albany, Betsy Myers was baking Christmas cookies and thinking about holiday parties, while her husband, Steve, sat at the kitchen table, reading the New York Times. Suddenly he jumped up, startling Betsy, and moved to the counter. “Look at this! There’s a good chance that New York State’s going to put a nuclear waste dump only a few miles from our home.”A map of the state ...

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2. Birth of Nonviolent Resistance

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pp. 37-60

GARY LLOYD SAT ALONE in a corner of his basement. The last of twenty men, most wearing camouflage, had just left and it was nearly midnight.They had formed a clandestine group called the Allegany Hilltop Patrol to fight the nuclear dump. Quickly agreeing not to do anything to harm people, they had begun talking about ways to sabotage drilling rigs and bulldozers. People in other movements might call it “ecotage,” but the local men meeting in Lloyd’s ...

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3. Declaration of War

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pp. 61-87

“SO YOU’LL COME BAIL ME OUT if I get thrown in jail?” Mary Gardner, the Media Coordinator of CCAC, asked. She was talking on the phone with CCAC treasurer Glenna Fredrickson, but their conversation had nothing to do with finances, money raising, or the media.Tomorrow, Mario Cuomo, governor of New York, would be visiting Alfred University where he would present the New York State College of Ceramics with ten million dollars to build an ...

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4. Vigilance and Rage

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pp. 89-110

SPIKE JONES LAUGHED, startling his two companions. For a couple of hours he, Gary Lloyd, and Stuart Campbell had been hiking in silence across the largest of the three potential dump sites in Allegany County, zigzagging from one wooded plot to another. They had focused on staying invisible, particularly when they had neared the clear-cut fields of three landowners who seemed eager to sell their property to the state. The stealth of their mission ...

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5. Defiance in the Bitter Cold

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pp. 111-125

A FEW FARMERS GOT LETTERS informing them that the siting commission would be sending technical teams onto their land on December 13, 1989.The commission notified the sheriff that they expected his help in getting onto the site; five days earlier a delegation from the state police had informed him that he could expect no help.1

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6. Linked Arms

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pp. 127-144

PEOPLE ON ALL THREE SITES became increasingly anxious as the day wore on. A little before noon, fearful that the technical team had somehow slipped onto the Allen site, Stuart suggested to Bill Coch that he go out to check the site. The doctor had come to the county as part of the National Health Service Corps, a federal government plan to entice doctors into rural areas where ...

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7. Defending the Sites

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pp. 145-171

Larry, of course, knew there was no such entity as the “local state police.” He had used the term when talking to the press, however, to praise the cooperative attitudes of Lieutenant McCole, Captain Browning, and other local state troopers, while lambasting Constantine’s and Cuomo’s politically motivated policy. The sheriff did not want his criticism of Albany to imply that citizens of the county could no longer trust local state troopers.

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8. Outside the Law

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pp. 173-192

SPECTATORS IN A PACKED state Supreme Court room in Buffalo were anxiously listening to Jerry Fowler try to convince Judge Jerome Gorski not to issue an injunction restraining protesters from interfering with the siting commission’s work. Specifically named in the injunction were Gary Lloyd, Stuart Campbell, Sally Campbell, Spike Jones, and the thirty-nine protesters who had been arrested in January at Caneadea and West Almond. Even more ...

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9. Grandparents, Horses, and Masks

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pp. 193-222

SALLY CAMPBELL WAS CLEARLY WORRIED as she walked toward the Old German Church, which was the protesters’ main staging area for the looming confrontation. She heard the drumming of a police helicopter and watched it circle the area for two or three minutes before it flew off to investigate another part of the site.A half-hour earlier she had driven by a huge mobile command center, filled with sophisticated communication ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 223-232

ALTHOUGH ITWASN’T CLEAR to most county citizens at the time, their triumph in keeping the technical team off the Caneadea site marked the final victory for Allegany County. It also rekindled a healthy debate across the United States about storing nuclear waste. At the time of this book’s publication, no new dump site for low level nuclear waste has been built in the United States.Twelve years ago, twelve new sites were actively being planned.

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Sources

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pp. 233-252

THUCYDIDES,THE FATHER OF HISTORY, set out to write the true story of the Peloponnesian War. He would not include any fabulous tales. He said that “only after investigating with the greatest possible accuracy each detail” did he include anything. But his goal was to capture the motives of the men who planned and executed the war by using their words and speeches.

Appendix

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pp. 253-257

Index of Names and Identifications

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pp. 259-266


E-ISBN-13: 9780791489789
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791451311
Print-ISBN-10: 0791451313

Page Count: 282
Publication Year: 2002

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Subject Headings

  • Low level radioactive waste disposal facilities -- New York (State) -- Allegany County -- Public opinion.
  • Civil disobedience -- New York (State) -- Allegany County.
  • Nonviolence -- New York (State) -- Allegany County.
  • Public opinion -- New York (State) -- Allegany County.
  • Environmental protection -- New York (State) -- Allegany County -- Citizen participation.
  • Low level radioactive waste disposal facilities -- Location -- New York (State) -- Allegany County.
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