Utahns beat back radioactive waste

 

With the help of some ugly political wrangling by the Utah congressional delegation, a hazardous waste disposal company nearly succeeded in its bid to bring 12,900 cubic yards of highly contaminated radioactive waste to the state. But on Nov. 18, after vociferous opposition at home, Envirocare of Utah pulled its federal application to dump the waste at its desert facility, 80 miles west of Salt Lake City.

"We probably weren’t going to be in the running, anyway," says Envirocare spokeswoman Bette Arial, noting that, even with federal approval, politicians in the state capital were unlikely to give their support. In October, news broke that first-term Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, R, had sent a letter to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce supporting a measure that would "reclassify" waste at a Superfund site in Ohio. This would have made it possible for Envirocare to accept waste at least 10 times more radioactive than currently allowed under Utah law (HCN, 10/14/02: Utah could kill a radioactive dump).

Bishop, a former Envirocare lobbyist, contended that the waste could be shipped safely by rail and would save federal taxpayers an estimated $30 million. Not shipping the waste to Utah, the letter read, "deprives a significant Utah company of additional revenue." The congressman later admitted that his letter was actually written by a current lobbyist with ties to Envirocare.

Nonetheless, in October, Ohio Sen. George Voinovich, R, inserted language in a Senate energy and water spending bill that would allow reclassified Ohio waste — as well as waste from a Superfund site in New York — to be shipped to Envirocare. The provision passed unchallenged by Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, R, who sits on the subcommittee that crafted the bill — and who himself had spent years pushing for regulatory changes that would allow Envirocare to store more radioactive waste.

But Utahns reacted in dismay. The state’s new Republican governor, Olene Walker, as well as an influential group of the state’s top religious, business and community leaders, came out against the waste. Bowing to the pressure, Bishop brokered a deal with Envirocare that put the company’s bid on hold until sometime next spring, when the state will receive oversight of all waste coming to company’s landfill.

Then, on Nov. 17, Bennett announced that he was opposed to the waste-importation plan. Envirocare pulled its application the next day, even though the reclassification provision passed the House and the Senate.

The author writes from Salt Lake City, Utah.

Note: this article appears with these three additional news articles in a spread about Congressional politics:

- As Congress adjourns, the environment is left in limbo

- Forest protection on the honor system

- New nuke studies are in the works

High Country News Classifieds
  • 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.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -