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Richard Piatt ReportingAn uncommon alliance is supporting the latest effort to stop nuclear waste from coming into Utah. All three Utah congressman, the Governor, environmentalists and others are behind a proposal that gives a new definition to 'wilderness'.
A pilot flies a training mission over Utah's west desert. Even as missions like this continue, pressure is mounting to store nuclear waste in a spot where pilots would fly over it all the time. That's just one reason Congressman Rob Bishop is pushing a bill to stop the waste, keep the training range, and protect the environment--all at once.
Rep. Rob Bishop, (R) Utah: "Those three parts are important to me. This bill, I think, is in the best interest of Utah."
Bishop's bill would declare more than 100,000 acres near Tooele county's Cedar Mountains 'wilderness'. By doing that it would not only protect the natural landscape in many ways, it would make it impossible for certain permits--needed to transport nuclear waste by rail--to be issued. The idea has been tried before and failed, but this latest version has the support of a variety of Utahns.
Governor Huntsman: "We want to do anything we can to keep nuclear rods out of the state."
Heidi McIntosh, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance: "We're happy to see it protected. And if it took the threat of nuclear waste to get that going, to get it protected, that's just the first step."
But the bill is still subject to political whims. Last year the US Senate rejected a similar measure, and Senator Robert Bennett says that may happen again.
Sen. Robert Bennett, (R) Utah: “Yes I’d be supportive of the bill, but I’d be misleading you if I told you it has much of a chance in the senate.”
Congressman Bishop's bill sets out to accomplish multiple goals all at once. He's built up multi-dimensional support for the proposal, which is no small thing. However, support beyond the state's borders is much more iffy.
Congressman Bishop says the Goshute Indian tribe is supportive of his measure. Also, the state is working on ways to block the waste from being brought in on trucks, in order to supplement the wilderness bill.