How will the elections affect environmental issues in the Congress? One thing is certain, observers say: They won't make resolving problems any easier.
Wilderness: In Utah, the
elections seem to bolster the chances of passing a small-acreage
wilderness bill. With Democratic Rep. Bill Orton ousted by
Republican Chris Cannon, the delegation will now be united behind
such a bill. Yet Utah environmentalists, who roused a national
constituency opposing 1.8 million acres and pushing 5.7 million
acres, say they do not anticipate a repeat of last year's attempt
to pass a 1.8 million-acre bill (HCN, 9/30/96).
"I suspect the delegation will lay low for
awhile," says Mike Matz, executive director of the Southern Utah
Utah may actually,
incredibly, witness some peace efforts. Right after the election,
the Department of Interior announced a new initiative: "We want to
adopt a program that is the opposite from the "War on the West,"
something I'm calling "Working with the West," assistant Interior
Secretary George Frampton told the Salt Lake Tribune. Frampton said
it would involve greater local involvement in federal land
From within Utah, Gov. Mike
Leavitt, R, announced he was ready to try a different approach to
the wilderness issue: piece-by-piece legislation. "Our efforts will
be devoted to finding ... (areas) where differences are small and
agreement is great. They do exist."
the replacement of Rep. Pat Williams, D, by Republican Rick Hill,
means there's not much hope of resolving Montana's decades-long
wilderness fight, says John Gatchell of the Montana Wilderness
Meanwhile, time is taking its toll.
Over the stalemated years, logging operations and off-road vehicles
have cut new roads into roadless areas, he says. "We're not only
losing the open space battle in our valleys, we're losing our
wildest public forests."
Salmon: Pat Ford of
Save Our Wild Salmon says the re-election of incumbents and
conservatives in Montana and Idaho almost guarantees that the
Pacific Northwest will yet again fail to figure out how to recover
salmon and steelhead. Clinton is the only hope, Ford says, and he
did nothing to resolve the salmon issue in his first four years.
Mining: With a Republican majority and the easy
re-election of industry stalwart Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, the
mining industry is ready to again protect the 1872 Mining Law. One
new factor may be the White House, which recently announced that it
will make mining reform a priority next year.
Nuclear Waste: Activists in Idaho don't expect
much help from the Clinton administration in fighting nuclear waste
shipments into the state. Idaho voters upheld a 40-year agreement
between Gov. Phil Batt and the Department of Energy allowing more
than a thousand new shipments. That, plus the re-election of Sen.
Craig, bodes well for those who want to store and treat waste in
The Batt-DOE deal requires that the waste
stay in Idaho only temporarily. Whether that waste ever leaves
depends on the long-planned Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada.
Craig pushed for a quick opening late last session, but Nevada's
congressional delegation killed it. The stalemate will likely
continue in 1997, observers say.
DOE says it intends to open the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in
New Mexico by November 1997. WIPP would accept nuclear waste from
the nation's nuclear bomb production facilities, but it faces
numerous procedural hurdles and a lawsuit from activists.