The Stop the Shipments initiative, which would overturn Gov. Phil Batt’s nuclear waste agreement with the federal government, qualified Wednesday for the November ballot.
North Idaho residents provided a chunk of the signatures needed. The Kootenai County elections office reported Wednesday that it has verified 5,018 signatures for the initiative.
The governor’s agreement allows more shipments of nuclear waste to the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory in southeastern Idaho, in exchange for millions in federal dollars to clean up existing waste at INEL and timetables for all the waste to be removed.
Former state Sen. John Peavey told a rally on the state capitol steps that the agreement was a “back-room deal that attempted to turn our state into a nuclear waste dump for the world.”
Batt reacted with an angry statement that accused initiative supporters of misleading Idahoans about his agreement.
“The initiative will not stop any shipments of spent fuel to Idaho,” Batt said. “What it will do is stop cleanup at the INEL; it will stop any shipments of nuclear waste from ever leaving Idaho; and it will open Idaho’s doors to 92,000 shipments of commercial waste.”
The feds haven’t hesitated in the past to send shipments over Idaho’s objections.
Initiative supporters say the 1,133 new shipments allowed by the deal are too much, and that the INEL is not a safe place to store nuclear waste.
Peavey called it an “outrage” that no citizen involvement was allowed in developing the Batt deal.
State Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, who also spoke at the rally, tried to introduce legislation this year calling for a statewide vote on the deal. But leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature refused to allow his legislation a hearing.
Said Peavey, “They wouldn’t let anyone criticize this agreement, go through it with a fine-toothed comb. They didn’t want to hear any of that.”
Ann Braley, spokeswoman for Lockheed Martin Corp., the main contractor at the INEL, said she was surprised at the support for the initiative in North Idaho. Lockheed has focused its efforts to sway people about the governor’s agreement on the area closer to INEL, after being told that people up north weren’t as concerned about the issue.
“Obviously there’s some interest and concern,” Braley said. “I don’t think we’re getting the message out what this governor’s agreement is about. Stop the Shipments won’t necessarily stop the shipments, but what it will do is stop the cleanup.” Initiative supporters submitted 43,735 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office Wednesday. That’s more than 2,000 over the number required to qualify. But supporters said they still had more validated signatures en route to Boise, including additional names from Kootenai County.
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