Arrow-right Camera
News >  Spokane

Deadline passes on nuclear waste measure

OLYMPIA – Measures to halt shipments of nuclear waste to Hanford and to study the future of nuclear power in Washington died Friday when a Senate committee chairman allowed a cutoff deadline to pass without a vote.

Tri-City interests have fought the Hanford waste bill, which essentially would write the intent of the legally challenged Initiative 297 into state law, while some had backed the nuclear power study bill.

Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, said having them both go down is fine with him. “I’ll trade,” he said. “I’ll accept that.”

That’s partly because he’s confident a nuclear power study will still be conducted. House Technology, Energy and Communications Chairman John McCoy, D-Tulalip, let an identical bill die but is planning to have the dormant Joint Committee on Energy Supply and Energy Conservation look at the issue anyway.

“The bill is calling for a committee to be established,” McCoy said. “We already have a committee in statute that can handle this.”

Because he is chairman of joint committee, he can make sure that study happens. McCoy wants it to include other forms of energy, too, including wave energy.

That was good enough for Delvin. “We found another way to do it,” he said.

Tri-City interests have successfully fought the Hanford waste ban bill since I-297 was approved in 2004. While the measure is held up in court, proponent Heart of America Northwest has been trying to get the Legislature to approve a cleaned-up version that could sustain a legal challenge.

The Tri-City Development Council and Tri-City legislators opposed the initiative and have opposed tinkering with the measure while its fate is being decided in court, believing it could harm cleanup instead of help it.

A hearing and committee vote were canceled in the House last week.

And while a hearing was held in the Senate, first-year Water, Energy and Telecommunications Committee Chairman Phil Rockefeller, D-Kitsap County, said that’s as far as he wanted to go.

“I wanted the opportunity to hear what people had to say. We hadn’t looked at it before,” Rockefeller said.

“We accomplished our purpose. It’s a divisive issue that needs more work.”