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Governor Otter just doesn’t get it

carlson CHRIS


Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s failure to understand not just the nuances but the primary purpose of the nuclear waste agreement negotiated for the state in 1995 with the Department of Energy and the Navy by Governor Phil Batt is simply appalling. It’s the people of Idaho and their descendents who are going to suffer if Governor Otter’s obsession with money trumping environmental risks warrants his unilaterally abrogating the Governor Batt 1995 agreement.

The waiver he and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden are ready to allow for the importation of commercial spent fuel rods should be withdrawn or halted by a Federal district judge. It violates both the letter of the law and the spirit of the agreement.

Every citizen of Idaho, and every future Idahoan, should stand and applaud two of Idaho’s best former governors, Batt, the Republican, and Andrus, the Democrat, for coming out of retirement and dedicating themselves to reversing the folly of this successor. May the good people of Idaho recognize how extraordinary this is and rally to the cause.

As Governor Batt has pointed out recently, by a two to one margin the voters of the state ratified his agreement that states no more commercial nuclear waste is to be brought into Idaho. Furthermore, that which is here is to be gone by 2035. We know that won’t happen because work at the proposed national repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, was stopped and the Obama Administration has shut it down.

Now, there are reliable reports the federal government is going to ask Idaho for a 15-year extension of that deadline to 2050. Why shouldn’t they, since in Otter they have a compliant, asleep at the switch governor who rolls over every time he’s asked to do so.

Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see the handwriting on the wall – any additional commercial waste, including spent fuel rods, brought to Idaho for any reason is going to be here for a long, long time stored above the Snake River Plain aquifer.

Governor Otter’s response to the announcement that his two predecessors are getting ready to go to federal court to enforce the Batt agreement was pure blarney. It was nothing but a partisan, red herring designed to divert attention to the real issue.

Yes, Governors Batt and Andrus do see storing commercial nuclear waste above the aquifer as a liability. They also understand that legitimate research will continue with plenty of what’s already there available for research. Furthermore, they can see the best insurance for continuing research activities at the site is to clean up what’s there and not let the site become the nation’s de facto nuclear garbge dump.

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about the Batt agreement’s emphatic, unequivocal “no more commercial waste” in Idaho?”

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement that major federal actions impacting the environment have to be subject to public review and comment?

The NEPA process is to be an open, transparent process with plenty of time for citizen comments. On that point alone the former governors should prevail easily in a court of law.

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about a predicted budget of $200 million over ten years for research on commercial spent fuel rods, when each shipment is projected to be a $10 to $20 million expense, presumes future waivers at least eight more times?

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about the Batt Agreement’s requirement that section D.2.e regarding calcining the 900,000 gallons of high level liquid waste there was supposed to be completed by 2012 and must be completed before DoE waiver requests can even be contemplated?

He should read the attorney general’s letter of February 27 where Wasden documents continual back-sliding and outright lying by DoE.

The date for completion of that project is clearly way off somewhere in the future but nonetheless completion is an absolute prerequisite for any request for any waiver of any kind to import any new additional commercial waste.

Even Wasden, after doing more due diligence, has figured out that DoE has yet to meet the section D.2.e criteria.

In spite of his letter clearly reversing himself, Wasden still is claiming consistency with his January letter. This means he believes a waiver is still in effect. The general is speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

Finally, what makes Governor Otter think he can act unilaterally and abrogate an agreement approved by the people of Idaho? This is pure arrogance on his part, unmatched by any of predecessors. The phrase that applies: dereliction of duty.

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