Republican Gov. Phil Batt is stepping up his efforts to stand off any federal attempt to dump up to 1,800 more loads of nuclear waste at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory.
The governor talked with all four members of the state’s congressional delegation by telephone on Friday about the state’s strategy once the Department of Energy formally releases its recommendation to use INEL, the Hanford reservation in Washington and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina as dumps for nuclear waste now temporarily stored at dozens of sites around the nation.
“We merely discussed the timetable, the likelihood that it would become public pretty soon and the need to have an overall state plan,” Batt said after the half-hour conference call.
Two days earlier, he spoke with Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary by telephone about his March 28 letter to President Clinton, reiterating the declaration he made a month earlier that Idaho will not become a de facto nuclear waste dump.
While he refused to be specific about his discussion with O’Leary, Batt said, “I have reason to be optimistic that we are going to have a better attitude toward Idaho in this matter.”
The governor, who was essentially under siege during the first month of his new administration over the waste issue, said his priorities remained ensuring no more waste is dumped at INEL, continuing the cleanup of waste already there in the face of a reduced federal financial commitment and maintaining the economic viability of the eastern Idaho installation that employees some 12,000 people.
“There’s nothing more important to me,” Batt said. “I regret that I haven’t had more time to devote to this.”
But he said the strategy sessions with the congressional delegation will become more frequent as he attempts to put together a detailed plan of attack on the Energy Department recommendation expected to be issued in the next few weeks.
“I hope before too long to have an overall plan to present and have hearings on around the state,” he said.
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