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Batt Adds Clout To N-Waste Fight Governor On Tour, Defending His Deal With Federal Government

Sat., Nov. 2, 1996, midnight

Gov. Phil Batt on Friday took a swipe at one of the leaders of the campaign to void his nuclear waste agreement with the federal government as he began the second day of a statewide fly-around to blunt the effort.

Batt, joined by Republican U.S. Sen. Dirk Kempthorne and Attorney General Alan Lance, left Boise for stops in Lewiston and Coeur d’Alene after spending Thursday in Twin Falls, Burley and Idaho Falls.

But first he criticized former Democratic state senator John Peavey, a leader of the Stop the Shipments group behind Proposition 3 on Tuesday’s ballot - a measure Batt said “is being promoted mainly for political purposes.”

“There are some people involved in it who have no political ambitions and who are very sincere in their belief that it’s the proper thing to do. But the main spokesman for the initiative has made no secret of the fact that he has political ambitions,” the governor said.

“He has run for governor before. He will run for governor again, evidently. And some of the material that he’s written in the past indicates that he thinks this is the wedge issue by which Democrats can get back in power.”

Peavey, a Carey rancher, campaigned for governor in 1993 before dropping out in favor of eventual Democratic nominee Larry EchoHawk. He then ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor against Republican Butch Otter, and recently formed a committee for a 1998 gubernatorial campaign.

But despite Peavey’s efforts, Batt indicated he is increasingly optimistic efforts to void the nuclear waste deal he cut last fall will fail.

“We think that Proposition 3 will be defeated, that people will vote no,” he said. “However, I do not take anything for granted in this business. I’ve been in it for a long time, and we will do our best until the final minute to convince more voters to vote no.”

The agreement allows 1,133 new shipments of highly radioactive waste to be dumped at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory in exchange for a court-enforced timetable for removing most of the waste at the Energy Department site by 2035.

Critics dispute the deal’s enforceability and contend it will allow the government to make Idaho the nation’s de facto nuclear waste dump. They fear the agreement takes the pressure off federal officials to find a permanent solution to waste storage. But with far more waste on the government’s hands than Idaho has agreed to accept, Batt says his deal actually increases the pressure to open a permanent dump somewhere else.

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