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Texas to sue over biolab site

A much-contested plan to build a $450 million government biodefense research lab has hit another snag: A group of Texas research organizations that lobbied for San Antonio to house the lab says it will sue the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over its choice of site -- Manhattan, Kansas. Cattle being inspected for ticks Image: USDA, via Wikipedia linkurl:The Texas Biological and Agro-Defense Consortium;http://www.nbafsanantonio.org/aboutTBAC.html earlier this week (April 22) filed a notic

By | April 24, 2009

A much-contested plan to build a $450 million government biodefense research lab has hit another snag: A group of Texas research organizations that lobbied for San Antonio to house the lab says it will sue the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over its choice of site -- Manhattan, Kansas.
Cattle being inspected for ticks
Image: USDA, via Wikipedia
linkurl:The Texas Biological and Agro-Defense Consortium;http://www.nbafsanantonio.org/aboutTBAC.html earlier this week (April 22) filed a notice of its intent to sue DHS, a required step for suits against the government. They argue that the choice of Kansas for the site of the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility (NBAF), which would handle the world's most dangerous pathogens, was based on political machinations and overlooks the danger frequent tornadoes would pose to the facility. John Kerr, chairman of the group, said that locating NBAF in Manhattan, Kan., would be "grossly irresponsible, the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with Mother Nature," according to the linkurl:Associated Press.;http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090422/ap_on_re_us/us_biothreat_laboratory Kerr argued that although DHS had initially ranked the Texas site slightly higher than Kansas, the agency's secretary in charge of choosing the site, Navy Admiral Jay Cohen, gave Kansas preference -- due to ties with Kansas officials involved in the process -- by making numerous visits there, the AP reports. Kansas officials deny the claim of political preference. linkurl:Kansas Bioscience Authority;http://www.kansasbioauthority.org/news/ president Tom Thornton said in a statement: "...the Department of Homeland Security deserves commendation, not litigation, for the extremely comprehensive and fair process it undertook to ensure the success of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. Only Kansas offers a credible pathway to jumpstart the NBAF's critical mission." DHS first proposed NBAF in January, 2006, as part of a plan to modernize the country's biological and agricultural defense research. The facility was intended to replace the aging Plum Island facility in New York -- currently the only US lab allowed to work with agricultural pathogens such as foot and mouth disease. The new facility would be equipped to work on pathogens requiring the highest containment level, BSL-4. (Plum Island is a BSL-3 lab.) Several research institutions applied to house the facility, and the government narrowed the list to five before settling on Kansas early this year. Critics of NBAF, however, claim that the government's safety assessments were flawed, and that conducting such research on the mainland, especially in the vicinity of the country's agriculture industry, is an inherently dangerous prospect. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who is currently awaiting confirmation to head the Department of Health and Human Services, objected to the lawsuit. "The three-year process to select an NBAF site was thorough, free of politics and fair," she said in a linkurl:statement.;http://www.governor.ks.gov/news/NewsRelease/2009/nr-09-0422a-st.htm "I am deeply concerned that legal action will only delay the NBAF mission, placing our national security and food supply at risk." Correction (April 27): The original version of this story mistakenly named hurricanes instead of tornadoes as the danger posed by locating the NBAF facility in Kansas. The Scientist regrets the error.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Kansas wins controversial biolab?;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55260/
[4th December 2008]*linkurl:US shortens list of bio-agro applicants;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/24290/
[10th August 2006]*linkurl:US homeland security to build animal biolab;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23091/
[6th February 2006]
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Comments

Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

April 27, 2009

Did the Texas group really want to sue DHS over hurricanes in Kansas? Shouldn't they worry about hurricanes in Austin? Aren't they closer to the Gulf Coast than the group in Kansas? I would be more worried about tornadoes than hurricanes, but then the Austin group might not have anyone named Dorothy or Toto in their group.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

April 27, 2009

Maybe this article meant to discuss the danger tornadoes pose to Kansas? Hurricanes just aren't that strong by the time they travel that far inland.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 16

April 27, 2009

The Original AP article referenced in this article had it correct...tornadoes. \n\nI wonder if this Texas consortium is as concerned about the Galveston Lab?
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

April 27, 2009

Surely, SURELY if Texas is suing over this, it's because of the threat of TORNADOES. San Antonio is more likely to be threatened by a hurricane than Kansas, although I think less likely to be a tornado target than Kansas.\n\nIn all, I think tornadoes are more of a risk--is someone just misspeaking?
Avatar of: Alison McCook

Alison McCook

Posts: 68

April 27, 2009

Indeed, we mixed up hurricanes and tornadoes in the original story. We apologize for the error, and are fixing it asap. Thanks for the help!\n\nAlison McCook\nDeputy Editor

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