Harold Simmons Does Nuclear Waste His Way

AP recently ran a story outlining the top SuperPac SuperDaddies. To no one’s surprise, three Texans are among the top five. Perhaps less surprising, Harold Simmons ranks as the second-highest contributor, with an estimated donation of $16 million to the Republican cause. In the primaries, he was an equal-opportunity supporter, throwing millions behind the campaigns of Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry. He’s known as a generous campaign contributor as well as someone who has a hard time playing by the rules.

How much Simmons gives to political campaigns is frequently in the news; people are fascinated by it. On the other hand, how Simmons spends his money when it comes to financial assurance of his radioactive waste site, Waste Control Specialists, there seems to be scant interest.

Here’s the gist: if you are a private entity who has been issued licenses in the state of Texas to dispose of radioactive waste, you must put up money as part of your license agreement. It’s referred to as financial assurance and it covers closure, post-closure, institutional action, and corrective action. Most of these costs are associated with the exit point, when the licensing period is up and the radioactive disposal site is relinquished to the state and federal government in perpetuity.

WCS is obligated to meet financial assurance in order to retain its licenses, and the amount isn’t peanuts: $140 million. The state, however, in lieu of a trust, surety bond, or insurance policy, has allowed Simmons to put up stock in another one of his holdings, Titanium Metals Corporation (TIMET). This arrangement will stand for five years. For details of the deal, go here.

Why should Texans be concerned? Because TIMET shareholder Bert Bauman has filed suit in a federal court, alleging “self-dealing transactions that were beneficial to sister entities he [Simmons] controlled at the expense of the Company.” According to the summary: “These transactions include below-market-rate loans made by TIMET to companies controlled by H. Simmons, complex insurance arrangements and the provision of other services in which TIMET and several related parties participate and jointly share costs, and TIMET’s purchases of the stock of an H. Simmons-controlled company at inflated values.”

And why should Bauman’s suit be of concern? As I wrote in D Magazine in 2010:

“[Simmons’] NL Industries has been the subject of continuous litigation. The most recent case involves plaintiffs who managed the company that cleaned up NL Industries’ environmental liabilities. They were also minority shareholders. In 2009, a Dallas County jury found NL Industries liable for not honoring contractual agreements and manipulating stock values. The plaintiffs were awarded $178.7 million in damages.”

Texans might want to shift their gaze away from incoming news on how much financial liquidity Simmons seems to have when it comes to elections and focus, instead, on the rise and fall of TIMET stock.


  • Brown Bess

    Oh, but I’m sure burying radioactive waste on top of a major aquifer, in a way that made more than one state environmental official resign, will cause no problems that will entail dipping into that bond anytime soon.

  • Kk

    He’s tremendously successful with his bought and paid for politicians. Didn’t his political contribution schemes cost him his relationships with his daughters? It seems like that was back in the 90’s. His manipulative political machinations are so sleazy and repulsive, no amount of charitable giving or donating could ever make up for it. Every voting citizen in this country should be outraged by this man, even without considering his radioactive environmental disaster of a private company.

  • MT

    At least he uses the money he makes to be one of the largest philanthropists in the country. Wouldn’t expect any journalist to mention it. That would go against the angle of portraying him as Mr. Burns.

    • @MT: This is a hypothetical. I’m not talking about Simmons. Let’s say there is a greedy guy who does bad things to increase the size of his fortune. Along the way, he gives to charity, knowing that it burnishes his image but also, yes, because he is a kind–though greedy enough that he will harm the environment to increase his fortune–human. How should the media treat such a man? Should they focus on his philanthropy? Should they focus on his reckless, selfish behavior?

      Now then. This next question is about Harold Simmons. He has committed misdeeds and kind acts (as we all have). Which of those actions receives more scrutiny? Which has the greater impact?

  • Eric

    The Rules simply don’t apply to Mr. Simmons. For a man in his stratosphere there are no rules.

    10 Million in charity versus $100 million in political contributions to save hundreds of millions in environmental costs. Is that a ‘good man’?

    It doesn’t take much, relatively speaking, to become one of the largest philanthropists. Sad but true.

  • Kk

    People that don’t spend 100’s of millions of dollars to buy politicians can’t get a permit for a dump for regular, everyday household trash. He gets permitted for RADIOACTIVE waste. Do you have any idea the fees he’s collecting for the dumping of that? And as the bond to cover it he uses some stock in a company (not even cash? Really??) that he then uses for some underhanded other money grab. No, his tax deductible charitable donations aren’t a drop in the bucket to make up for everything else he does. I wonder if his family is still broken over his misdeeds? He’s a poster child for campaign finance reform.

  • Bill

    The State of Texas (and it’s citizens) should be the sole entity to pay for the costs of any cleanup. If any Federal money is required, the State should be forced to pay back the money. This billionaire and those he bought should then be forced into the worst prison imaginable for the remainder of their lives, after confiscating all possessions and monies they have ever had (with clawbacks). Sound harsh? What gives any man or government the authority to pollute the earth so bad as to make being near it potentially deadly? NONE.