- Jessica Murri
Former Idaho Govs. Phil Batt (left) and Cecil Andrus (right) came together in January to publicly oppose current Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's decision to allow more shipments of spent nuclear fuel into Idaho.
Former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus is continuing with his campaign against a plan to ship spent nuclear fuel to the Idaho National Laboratory.
In a statement sent to Idaho media this morning, Andrus, who served four terms as a Democratic governor and U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Jimmy Carter, called his "odyssey" to uncover the Department of Energy's plans for the shipments "both eye opening and disturbing."
Specifically, Andrus said he has requested a range of documents from the agency pertaining to correspondence and internal memos that would "shed light on just what the federal government has planned for Idaho." What he received, according to the press statement, was a collection of heavily redacted material. Andrus appealed what he called "the decision to stonewall on public information," but was met with a rejection from the department.
"DOE rejected my appeal recently saying that releasing information about its plans in Idaho would 'cause the harm of chilling open and frank discussion, limit government personnel's range of options ... and detract from the quality of Agency decision,'" he wrote. "DOE simply decided the release of the information I requested and would have shared with Idahoans 'would not be in the public interest.'"
Andrus joined fellow former Gov. Phil Batt in January to publicly oppose the decision by current Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to allow more shipments of nuclear waste to INL, located in eastern Idaho. Both Andrus and Batt worked during their terms to stop the importation of spent fuel waste to the Gem State, culminating in the 1995 agreement brokered by Batt that no more waste would be sent to Idaho.
"It's not my agreement, it's Idaho's agreement," Batt said at the January press conference, referring to the fact that more than 60 percent of Idaho voters ratified the pact at the polls.
In March, Otter fired back with his own statement.
"The allegation that I am doing anything less than protecting Idaho under the terms of the 1995 Settlement Agreement is simply wrong. No governor has shipped more waste out of the state than me," he wrote. "It seems as if the former governors would be satisfied with cleaning up the INL and shutting it down. Their approach ignores the asset the INL has become to eastern Idaho, the state and nation."
Andrus pushed back against the assertion that he and Batt are opponents of the INL, writing, "Some DOE apologists have attempted to make this dispute about whether Idahoans 'support the INL,' but this is not the issue. The issues Governor Batt and I have focused on are bigger and ultimately much more important: what ultimately happens to the significant quantities of nuclear waste already in Idaho, what is DOE's plan to honor commitments already made and what happens if we agree to take even more waste?"
The former governor blasted DOE for its "culture of secrecy," alleging the department "wants to consider waste options in secret without involving or in any way consulting Idahoans."
"DOE owes all of us a real discussion about those questions followed by real answers," Andrus wrote.