Downwinders speak up and pay up

  • INEEL in Idaho and Jackson in Wyoming

    Map by Diane Sylvain
  More than 500 residents of Jackson Hole, Wyo., packed a meeting hall in late August to fight a nuclear-waste incinerator planned for eastern Idaho. The crowd rallied to the evangelical fervor of Gerry Spence, the flamboyant lawyer who has built a national career on high-profile cases.


By the end of the evening, everyone from movie actors to massage therapists had pledged a total of $496,000 to fight the incinerator, planned for the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory near Idaho Falls. It would burn mixed hazardous and low-level radioactive waste left over from the Cold War bomb-making era.


The Department of Energy has already completed an environmental impact statement, and its private contractor, British Nuclear Fuels Limited, hopes to begin construction this fall. The project's last hurdle is obtaining a clean-air permit from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.


The department held public hearings on the permit last winter. The comment period on Idaho's air permit closed in June after two extensions.


But Jackson Hole residents didn't catch wind of it until late May, when the Idaho nonprofit Snake River Alliance sent a warning letter to the Jackson Hole News. Now, a corps of citizens-turned-activists fears that the incinerator will send a plume of radioactive emissions 90 miles downwind to Wyoming.


"We have systematically given our power to the experts who say they can assure us that any amount (of radiation) is harmless," says Angele Ferre, a Jackson local who has spearheaded the effort. "If one person is harmed by the emissions, then no amounts are harmless."


The federal Department of Energy insists that the project is safe. "The amount of emissions that will be released is infinitesimal, much lower than the amounts of natural radiation to which Wyoming residents are exposed to on a daily basis," says Brad Bugger, a spokesman for the Department of Energy.


But federal officials haven't heard the last of Jackson Hole. On Sept. 17, Gerry Spence sued the Energy Department, claiming the agency didn't look at alternatives to incineration. His backers have raised nearly $1 million. "You don't go to battle without a full war chest," he says. "And I have never fought a battle I couldn't win."


*Rachel Odell
High Country News Classifieds
  • DISTRICT MANAGER
    The San Juan Islands Conservation District is seeking applicants for the District Manager position. The position is open until filled and application plus cover letter...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Mountain Time Arts, a Bozeman-based nonprofit, is seeking an Executive Director. MTA advocates for and produces public artworks that advance social & environmental justice in...
  • BEND AREA HOME WITH AMAZING CASCADE PEAKS VIEW
    Enjoy rural peacefulness and privacy with one of the most magnificent Cascade Mountain views in sunny Central Oregon! Convenient location only eight miles from Bend's...
  • MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Marketing Communications Manager to join our...
  • EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks an Editor-In-Chief to join our senior team...
  • RESEARCH FELLOW (SOUTHWESTERN U.S. ENERGY TRANSITION)
    The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust is seeking a full-time Fellow to conduct topical research...
  • LENDER OWNED FIX & FLIP
    2 houses on 37+ acres. Gated subdivision, Penrose Colorado. $400k. Possible lender financing. Bob Kunkler Brokers Welcome.
  • ONCE OR TWICE
    A short historical novel set in central Oregon based on the the WWII Japanese high altitude ballon that exploded causing civilian casualties. A riveting look...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • HOUSE FOR SALE
    Rare mountain property, borders National Forest, stream nearby. Pumicecrete, solar net metering, radiant heat, fine cabinets, attic space to expand, patio, garden, wildlife, insulated garage,...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER- NORTHERN PLAINS RESOURCE COUNCIL
    Want to organize people to protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life with Northern Plains Resource Council? Apply now-...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGER
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is hiring an energetic and motivated Conservation Manager to develop and complete new conservation projects and work within...
  • POLLINATOR OASIS
    Seeking an experienced, hardworking partner to help restore a desert watershed/wetland while also creating a pollinator oasis at the mouth of an upland canyon. Compensation:...
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -