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
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT EDITOR
    High Country News (HCN) seeks an audience editor to attract and acquire new audiences and deepen engagement with them - in our newsletters, on our...
  • COMMUNITY MARKETER
    High Country News (HCN) is looking for a Community Marketer to build and strengthen relationships between HCN and other organizations and individuals, with the aim...
  • FINANCE & OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Job Announcement: Finance and Operations Manager Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement: Development Director Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August 9, 2021...
  • HECHO POLICY AND ADVOCACY MANAGER
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • HECHO NEW MEXICO SENIOR FIELD COORDINATOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR
    The Wilderness Society is seeking a full time Idaho State Director who will preferably be based in Boise, Idaho. This position is part of our...
  • CAUCASIAN OVCHARKA PUPPIES
    Strong loyal companions. Ready to protect your family and property. Proven against wolves and grizzlies. Imported bloodlines. Well socialized.
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is dedicated to saving the lands and waters on which all life depends. For more than 30 years, TNC has...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, CLIMATE AND ENERGY PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-climate-energy-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Climate and Energy Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Climate and Energy Program Director Location: Helena, Montana; other...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, WILDLANDS AND WILDLIFE PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-wildlands-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Director Location: Portland or Eugene,...
  • DISCOUNT SOLAR PANELS
    New w/25 year warranty. Shipped anywhere in the lower 48. Minimum order of 10 units. Call, text or email for current prices. .50-.80/ watt
  • SWEET MOUNTAIN HOME
    3.8 acres in pine and fir forest on a year round creek. Custom home, 2x6 framing, radiant heat, wrap around decks and established berry patch....
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • LEGAL DIRECTOR AND STAFF ATTORNEY
    Friends of the San Juans' Legal Director and Staff Attorney ("Legal Director") leads our legal advocacy and litigation practice and participates in many other organizational...
  • SPRING-FED PARCELS ON THE UPPER SAC RIVER
    Adjacent parcels above the Upper Sacramento river, near Dunsmuir. The smaller is just under 3 acres, with the larger at just under 15 acres. Multiple...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Wilderness Volunteers Wilderness Volunteers (WV), a 24-year leader in preserving our nation's wildlands, is seeking a motivated person with deep outdoor interests to guide our...
  • POEM+ NEWSLETTER
    Start each month with a poem in your inbox by signing up for Taylor S. Winchell's monthly Poem+ Newsletter. No frills. No news. No politics....