Idaho GOP Senators Join Dems to Sponsor Downwinder Compensation Extensions


Idaho U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are the only Republicans to join three Democrats to co-sponsor Senate Bill 773. But a closer look at the measure reveals why Crapo and Risch are supporting the bill: The legislature would ammend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to extend compensation to those Idahoans and residents of six other states known as "Downwinders."

"They can't make it right, but they can make it better," Sarah Huges of Wendell, Idaho, told Boise Weekly in 2004. Cancer invaded Hughes' lungs, kidneys and spleen.

In 1997, the National Cancer Institute concluded that rural counties in Idaho had some of the region's highest exposure rates by being downwind of the Nevada and Trinity Nuclear Test sites.

"Passage of this bipartisan legislation is crucial in ensuring Idahoans get the care they need," wrote Crapo in his statement of co-sponsorship. "Idaho communities and individuals that have been adversely affected by our nation's weapons programs must be justly and sufficiently compensated by the federal government."

Specifically, the new RECA amendments would equalize compensation for all claimants to $150,000, expand the downwind exposure area to include seven states and fund a new study of the health impacts on families of uranium workers and residents of uranium development communities.

"This bill once again seeks a fair resolution for those people impacted by the nuclear testing program, just as others in surrounding states have been provided," said Risch. "Idahoans deserve the same care and compensation because of the identical health effects."