Bishop Defends Legislation to Facilitate Disposal of Ohio Tailings

Bishop Defends Legislation to Facilitate Disposal of Ohio Tailings

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Opponents of a plan to ship concentrated radioactive waste from Ohio for burial at Envirocare's disposal site in western Utah interrupted and shouted down Rep. Rob Bishop during a town meeting Thursday night.

Some called on the Utah Republican to resign while others told him to cut his ties to Envirocare, which he maintains he no longer has. Bishop is a former lobbyist for Envirocare.

The protesters are angry at his pushing an amendment to the energy bill that would allow commercial waste companies -- such as Envirocare -- to take uranium mill tailings now stored at the Energy Department's former Fernald plant in Ohio.

Without the reclassification of the waste, it would have to be shipped to the Nevada Test Site.

Jason Groenewold of Families Against Incinerator Risk and Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, said, "This is very significant waste that they are trying to bring here. And people have been concerned about the reclassification of radioactive waste and about Utah being the dumping ground before the energy bill. So they're just paranoid."

Bishop, whose district includes the Envirocare site, said it would be cheaper and safer for a commercial company to take it by rail rather than have it trucked to Nevada.

Rep. Jim Matheson on Tuesday asked congressional leaders to remove the provision from the energy bill.

No other members of the delegation -- all Republicans except for him -- have supported him.

Rep. Chris Cannon and Sen. Orrin Hatch say they see no reason to ask Energy Bill conferees to take the Envirocare provision out of the bill, and Sen. Bob Bennett said he needs more information to decide.

Matheson called the Envirocare provision "a bad message" on both procedural and policy grounds.

"I'm concerned about Utah being a dumping ground for wastes from other states," said Matheson, who said the provision was added to the Energy Bill without the usual congressional review.

Cannon said he knew little about the technical issues, but objected strongly to Matheson "going to the press" before seeking delegationwide support.

"He can take any position he wants," said Cannon. "But he shouldn't make it personal. He shouldn't take cheap shots at the delegation."

Hatch spokesman Adam Elggren said any facility seeking to take the waste would need to meet federal standards.

"If someone can convince me that meeting all the federal standards is not sufficient to protect our citizens, then I would oppose this proposal," said Hatch, whose son is a lawyer for Envirocare owner Khosrow Semnani. "At the present time, my understanding is that the standards are sufficient to protect the public."

Bennett press secretary Mary Jane Collipriest said Bennett was talking about issue with Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Utah officials.

"The senator is awaiting the results of this review before proceeding further, but remains committed to public safety over economic advantages," she said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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