Andrus: Reopening Idaho nuclear deal would be 'dangerous and politically unwise'

UPDATED, 2:53 p.m., to clarify Otter's remarks on the 1995 agreement.

A 1995 nuclear waste cleanup agreement with the federal government protects Idaho's "health, security and future economic well-being," as should be left alone.

So says former Gov. Cecil Andrus, who spent much of his four terms in the Statehouse pushing the feds to clean up wastes at the Idaho National Laboratory.

"I am opposed to importing and placing more high-level waste directly above the water supply of our people and industries," said Andrus Monday, in a letter to Jeff Sayer, the state Commerce Department director and chairman of a gubernatorial panel studying the lab's future. "Such an action would be dangerous and politically unwise."

Sayer has said the state should at least discuss the idea of allowing additional nuclear waste shipments to Idaho, beyond the limits established by the 1995 agreement, if these shipments would solidify the INL's research role. Sayer says it would be premature for the state to arrive at a decision.

Current Gov. Butch Otter has said he opposes making Idaho "the nation's nuclear dumping ground." Otter said, in a May guest opinion, "I will continue to hold the federal government accountable under the 1995 agreement."

Here's Andrus' letter:

"I have carefully read the LINE Commission's Progress Report and the subcommittee recommendations issued for public review and comment on Dec. 2, 2012. Nothing in that document warrants any amendment for any reason to the 'Batt Agreement of 1995 negotiated between the state of Idaho, the Department of Energy and the United States and then ratified by the people of Idaho in a statewide vote.

"I have every confidence that Gov. C.L. 'Butch' Otter understands the 1995 Agreement carries the force of the law and requires being upheld against any proposed amendments that anyone anywhere might suggest for any reason.

"Idaho and her citizens have for decades been trying to remove nuclear waste from above the Snake River Aquifer. I am opposed to importing and placing more high-level waste directly above the water supply of our people and industries. Such an action would be dangerous and politically unwise.

"The 1995 Agreement is unique to the state of Idaho and provides assurance to its people that the great Snake River Aquifer will be protected as will the health, security and future economic well-being of the entire state. Therefore, I am strongly opposed to any amendment to the Agreement."

More reading: Here's a link to my column last week on the LINE Commission.

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What Sayer seems to fail to

What Sayer seems to fail to appreciate is that Idaho has already made up its mind, 17 years ago. Where was he at when this deal was struck, fought for and against in a campaign, and ultimately approved by Idahoans? Bizzare issue to re-open at this time.

I'm assuming you are referencing the 1996 initiative

can you remind me what that initiative actually said?

1996 ballot language

Hi drums52,
The text of the voter referendum to nullify the Batt Agreement is included in the LINE Commission's draft report (pg. 15 in hard copy, pg. 19 in pdf, pasted below). The report also notes that the initiative was rejected by 62.5 percent of Idahoans.
Nicole Stricker, INL

PROPOSITION THREE: INITIATIVE REQUIRING LEGISLATIVE AND VOTER APPROVAL OF AGREEMENTS FOR THE RECEIPT OF ADDITIONAL RADIOACTIVE WASTE AND NULLIFYING PRIOR AGREEMENT.

Initiative proposing new sections of Idaho law limiting the authority of state officials to enter into agreements for the receipt and storage of additional radioactive waste in Idaho. The initiative would require that any such agreement must be approved by the state legislature, and by the voters at the next biennial election before becoming effective. The initiative would nullify the prior agreement entered into by the State of Idaho and the federal government regarding receipt of radioactive waste, and would require that the Attorney General of the State of Idaho file a motion under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to set aside or vacate the federal court order which implemented the agreement. The initiative also defines certain terms used in the initiative. The initiative further provides that nothing in the initiative would limit the authority of the governor or the attorney general under the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) or the Federal Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”). The initiative contains a severability clause.