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Posts tagged as “Cecil Andrus”

The day the border closed

johnson

Thirty years ago this month, then-Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus willfully and with malice aforethought sparked one of the most consequential confrontations of the nuclear age. The Idaho governor, a rangy, bald-headed one-time lumberjack from Orofino, took on the federal government in a way few, if any, Idaho politicians ever had before or has since.

I have many vivid memories of working for Andrus those long years ago, but no memory remains more evocative than when the governor of Idaho called the bluff of the Department of Energy over nuclear waste. We are still feeling the ripples of that encounter and Idaho, thanks to dozens of subsequent actions, including a landmark agreement negotiated by Andrus' successor, Republican Gov. Phil Batt, has gotten rid of a good part of its nuclear waste stockpile. If current state leaders are half as smart as Andrus and Batt, they will fight to retain the leverage Idaho has to get rid of the rest.

On a crisp fall day in 1988, Andrus and I flew to Carlsbad, N. M., a town in the southeastern corner of the state at the time better known for its caverns than for its starring role in a governmental showdown. Carlsbad was once the potash capital of the country and had long been a place where extracting value from the earth dominated the economy. When potash ceased to be an economic driver for the region, the powers to be in Eddy County went looking for a future. They found some level of economic salvation in nuclear waste.

Andrus was there to help realize their expectations and, in the process, help Idaho.

Years earlier, as secretary of the interior, Andrus had become a Carlsbad favorite for his attention to local issues - Carlsbad Caverns National Park in the domain of the Interior Department is nearby - and because of the respect he enjoyed, the locals made him an honorary member of the Eddy County Sheriff's Posse.

As a member of the august group, Andrus was able to sport the outfit's signature Stetson, a big hat hard to miss in a crowd. The Stetson was a scintillating shade of turquoise.

Wearing his colorful headgear, Andrus arrived in Carlsbad 30 years ago to "tour" the then-unfinished Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a massive cavern carved out of the deep salt formations under southeastern New Mexico. Years earlier the DOE, then as now the single most incompetent bureaucracy in the federal government, had determined that the salt formations would be the ideal place to permanently dispose of certain types of extremely long-lived radioactive waste.

Encased thousands of feet below ground in salt that had existed for hundreds if not millions of years and never touched by water, the waste would be safe. The science was sound even if DOE's execution of a plan to prepare the facility for waste was deeply flawed.

Andrus' WIPP inspection left him convinced that the only way to move DOE's bureaucracy was to manufacture a crisis. His motive, of course, was to shine a light on DOE management failures, but also advancing the day when nuclear waste that had been sitting in Idaho for years would be permanently removed to New Mexico.

He returned to Idaho and closed the state's borders to any more waste, declaring, "I'm not in the garbage business any more."

I remember asking Andrus if he really had the legal authority to take an action that seemed sure to end up in court. He smiled and said, " I may not have the legal authority, but I have the moral authority. Let them try to stop me."

The audacious action had precisely the effect Idaho's governor intended. The nation's decades of failures managing its massive stockpile of nuclear waste became, at least for a while, a national issue.

The New York Times printed a photo of an Idaho state trooper standing guard over a rail car of waste on a siding near Blackfoot. DOE blinked and eventually took that shipment back to Colorado.

A now retired senior DOE official recently told me Andrus' action was the catalyst to get the New Mexico facility operational. His gutsy leadership also highlighted the political reality that Idaho's rebellion against the feds might easily spread.

Subsequent litigation, various agreements and better DOE focus, at least temporarily, led to the opening of the WIPP site in 1999 and some of the waste stored in Idaho began moving south.

With the perfect hindsight of 30 years, it is also clear that Idaho's willingness to take on the federal government did not, as many of the state's Republicans claimed at the time, hurt the Idaho National Laboratory.

Batt's 1995 agreement, which Andrus zealously defended up until his death last year, continues to provide Idaho with the best roadmap any state has for cleaning up and properly disposing of waste. Idaho would be foolish to squander any of the leverage it has thanks to the work Andrus and Batt did to hold the federal government accountable.

But, of course, some Idahoans continue to talk about waste accommodation with DOE, even as deadlines for more removal and clean up are missed and the DOE behemoth stumbles forward.

A former Texas governor who once advocated eliminating the agency now heads DOE. As Michael Lewis demonstrates in his scary new book "The Fifth Risk," DOE Secretary Rick Perry is little more than a figurehead acting out a role that is both "ceremonial and bizarre." According to Lewis's telling, Perry didn't even bother to ask for a briefing on any DOE program when he arrived.

Meanwhile Perry's boss recently announced in Nevada, a state where waste is about as popular as a busted flush, that he's opposed to eventually opening the Yucca Mountain site as a permanent repository for very high-level nuclear waste.

President Donald Trump made that statement even as his own budget contains millions of our dollars to work on opening the very facility.

Federal government incoherence obviously continues. Cece Andrus confronted it 30 years ago. He was right then and we can still learn from his leadership.

Johnson was press secretary and chief of staff to the late former Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus. He lives in Manzanita, Ore.

Preconceived bias

carlson

This past weekend saw a classic example of an otherwise fine reporter filing an Associated Press story about the prospects of former State Representative Paulette Jordan (D-Plummer) to upset Lt. Governor Brad Little (R-Emmett) in this fall’s gubernatorial race.

Rather than state the obvious, that she has a snow-balls chance in hell (Little wins 65% to 35%) the reporter seems to want to throw out a lifeline of a shred of hope that it happens.

Wishing to appear balnaced and objective and to mask their bias the reporter set up a “straw dog” as the model of the typical Idaho governor---you know, one who rides a horse well or at least looks like a cowboy; a fiscal conservative who has signed the pledge not to support any new taxes, and of course a white male.

The reporter added one other wrinkle, pointing out that they should be a Mormon. Then the reporter veered of the tracks big-time by saying in effect this was the mold formed by former four-term Idaho Governor which Rep. Jordan was trying to break.

This line of malarky is a classic false syllogism which reveals the reporter’s bias and a desperate effort to create credulity for a candidate who has none.

There are several facts one sould keep in mind here. First, Andrus did indeed set the standard by which one should measure whether a gubernatorial candidate can do the job of solving problems.

There is nothing in Rep. Jordan’s record that indicates she is a problem-solver. She claims to be a leader, not a politician, but she has not lead any organization or board of directors. And not one of her legislative colleagues has endorsed her candidacy.

The reporter also took identity politics a step further by stating that Cecil D. Andrus was LDS. Wrong. He was a Lutheran. The reporter must feel that if Jordan pulls of an upset, people will appreciate it even more if they know Jordan knocked off a Mormon.

Of Idaho’s thirty-five governors only one Mormon has been elected—John V. Evans in 1978. One other, Arnold Williams, inherited the office in 1946 but was defeated later that year.

All reporters and columnists have pre-conceived biases and often write with their conclusion in mind to which they seek supporting testimony. A goood reporter will acknowledge bias but will strive for objectivity. At the end of the day though they still are subjectively writing.

So, you ask, what are some of your faithful scribe’s biases? I have a bias against:

*politicians who do not write personal thank you notes to those that help them in some way;

*politicians who while running for office claim not to be a politician but rather a leader;

*politicians who lie like Rep. Jordan did when she mislead the press claiming some support for her candidacy from legislative colleagues;

*politicians who campaign only on the internet, twittter and face-book and are afraid to walk into a town’s coffee shop and make a cold call. Instead their public events are known party gatherings;

*politicians who do not do their homework and cannot discuss an issue beyond a one-page briefer;

*politicians who support the expansion of gambling in Idaho;

*politicians who accept contributions from PACS and are ok with so-called dark money;

*politicians who do not understand federal/state relations and blindly accept unconstitutional “solutions;”

*politicians who view the office they seek as a stepping stone to even higher office;

*politicians who run for reasons of ego and hubris, rather than seeing politics as a noble calling;

*politicians who play the identity politics game, and by doing so trivialize the process and demean themselves.

*politicians who cannot even organize and run their own campaign. Why should the voter think they can administer the state?
 

Alaska, Andrus and Carter

carlsonlogo1

Former President Jimmy Carter, the best ex-president this country has ever had, is suffering from liver cancer and could be crossing the Jordan River soon. He is now 90 years old and just finished his 25th book. The Carter Center at Emory University in Atlanta has become a model for the good works a former president can do both in this country and around the world.

Without question the top achievement legislatively from the four years President Carter held the wheel was passage of the Alaskan lands legislation which overnight doubled the size of the National Park system and the Fish and Wildlife system of bird refuges. Almost 100 million acres, including entire ecosystems received protection.

I have a new book out, Eye on the Caribou, published by Ridenbaugh Press that tells the inside story of the critical role played by former four term Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus in securing the historic legislation while serving as President Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of the Interior.

I’ve long thought that Governor Andrus has never been given the full credit he deserved for the critical role he played in leading the way to passage of the greatest single piece of conservation legislation in American history, so I set out to make sure the history books properly reflect this excellent piece of his legacy.

This new book joins a well reviewed biography (Cecil Andrus: Idaho’s Greatest Governor) on the governor published in 2011, and a book of 13 essays (Medimont Reflections) in 2013 that covered other issues and political figures Governor Andrus and I worked on during my 40 years of public involvement.

Andrus has always been quick to say that “success has a thousand fathers and mothers” and has especially singled out the Alaska Coaliton and the critical role played by Chuck Clusen, Brock Evans and Doug Scott for their contribution to successful passage of the legislation.

Future historians will find some heretofore little known jewels of information in this latest book. For example, during the summer of 1978 when Andrus and President Carter spent four days fly fishing and floating the Middle Fork of Idaho’s Salmon River, they settled on the fall back strategy of President Carter using his authority under the Antiquities Act to make the largest national monuments in history. They guessed correctly this would bring the Alaska delegation back to the bargaining table to undue the more restrictive form of protection monument status requires.

Other examples of anecdotes in the book include a heretofore unreported 1979 secret meeting between Alaska Governor Jay Hammond and Secretary Andrus in which the two by themselves spent a day fishing at some of Hammond’s favorite fishing sites in and around Lake Clark and Lake Iliamna. The two would set aside their fishing rods from time to time, get out their maps and pretty much settled on the boundaries of the soon-to-be new additions to the Nationl Park Service and to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s system of bird refuges.

The book also details the massive cross-over vote in 1980 orchestrated by the late Senator Ted Stevens to defeat in the Democratic primary his senatorial colleague, Mike Gravel. Stevens held Gravel directly responsible for the circumstances leading to his wife Ann’s death in a plane crash on December 4th, 1978.

The book also details the adverse impact the legislation had for the owner of a properly proven up mining claim owned by a partnership that included a Spokane exploration geologist, Wallace McGregor.

Even universally acclaimed legislation can still have adverse impacts on some people, and while Mr. McGregor’s dispute with the Park Service over his inholding is complex the fact remains that 40 years have gone by without any compensation to them for a de facto taking.”

The book retails for $16.95 and is now available directly from the publisher, Ridenbaugh.com, or Amazon.com, or directly from the author, or at your nearby Hastings outlet in Idaho and at Aunties in Spokane, as well as The PaperHouse in St. Maries.

What a web we weave

carlsonlogo1

Most can complete the saying: “when first we start to deceive.” Most get the point also - that one lie begets another lie, and the more a person or institution lies, the more likely it is to become entrappped in a spider web of its own making.

Apparently the folks running the Department of Energy (DoE) today and its Idaho National Lab (INL) subsidiary either don’t get it or don’t understand it or just don’t care. This casual disregard for truth is seriously eroding public trust both in the department itself and in INL’s management.

Admiral Grossenbacher, the INL site manager, is on the one hand a pleasant, intelligent, and charming fellow. The extent to which he presents the deliberately misleading company line, on the other hand, has one questioning everything he says.

The latest example of the long, sorry history of DoE duplicity, double-talk, distortion and misrepresentation is the proposed importation of “only two hundred pounds of commercial spent fuel rods” for research purposes. To bring two shipments in, however, requires a waiver of the 1995 Agreement between the state of Idaho, the Navy and the DoE negotiated by Governor Phil Batt, which prohibits such importation.

Both former Governor Batt and Governor Cecil D. Andrus immediately registered strrng objections. Andrus also referenced information he had that the first two shipments were just the camel’s nose and that DoE had plans to bring an additional 20 metric tons of commercial spent fuel rods to Idaho.

INL boosters pooh-poohed Andrus’ information saying it was indicative that he simply did not know what he was talking about. Guess what, folks? Andrus was correct. The Snake River Alliance produced a tape of Admiral Grossenbacher in a September of 2013 presentation to Governor Otter’s LINE Commission referencing DoE plans to follow up the initial two shipments with 20 metric tons of commercial spent fuel rods from the North Ana (Virginia) nuclear plant to be stored, monitored and studied for a number of years.

Both former governors pointed out to the media that absent DoE’s now cancelled final repository being constructed at Yucca Mountain, Nevada there is no other place to ship waste at INL to despite the Batt Agreement’s deadline of 2036 for all waste to be gone. Once here it will stay here.

DoE has since put out a Supplemental Analysis (SA) of the supposed environmental impacts of moving and storing these commercil spent fuel rods that can only be described as a joke. Using 20 year old data rehased from an earlier EIS simply will not fly and Governors Batt and Andrus are betting that if and when they go to Federal court on this issue the judge will again side with them.

What was most deceitful in the SA, however, was the misrepresentation that both Governor Otter and Attorney General Wasden have signed off on and in effect approved of the waiver request. That is simply not true.

In a letter to DoE on February 27th, AG Wasden made it clear he was not signing off on anything until the department fulfills another condition of the Batt agreement, that of cleaning up and disposing of 900,000 gallons of liquid waste stored at the site. Past efforts to solve this challenge have failed and the department is years away from finding a solution and meeting that pre-condition.

Just prior to Andrus/Batt attorney Laird Lucas¸ of the Advocates for the West, submitting on behalf of the former governors their comments dissing the incompleteness of the Supplemental Analysis, the Office of the Secretary of DoE finally provided a classic non-response to a separate Freedom of Information request filed by Andrus in January of 2015. The document contained 18 specific questions regarding the proposed handling and storage of the spent fuel rods, whether there was a supplemental budget to cover costs, and other basic, easy-to-answer if you want to questions.

Claiming privilege and national security, the letter was another complete non-response, containing page after page of redacted material. Here’s hoping the two governors, or at least Governor Andrus, file a federal lawsuit against INL and DoE on this matter also.

At the very first joint press conference held by the former governors to announce their opposition, Governor Batt referenced an important principle that should be honored.

He pointed out that the people of Idaho in essence ratified his agreement. Batt said any change whatsoever in the agreement would have to be taken back to the voter to be ratified.

Here’s a wager that DoE/INL will never do that for the simple reason even they know the public seldom rewards liars.