Monday, April 21, 2008

“We must do better” protecting Utah, says Democratic candidate for governor

SALT LAKE CITY – As week long activities to commemorate Earth Day 2008 begin, the Democratic candidate for governor says “we must do better” at keeping Utah’s air and water safe for ourselves and our children.

Bob Springmeyer, a business-development consultant and long-time civic leader, today challenged incumbent Jon Huntsman Jr. to join other Democrats – including 2nd District Congressman Jim Matheson – in fighting to keep even low-level radioactive waste generated overseas out of Utah.

“After watching as a generation of fellow Utahns suffers the downwind effects of nuclear experimentation, the governor’s lack of leadership in stopping the EnergySolutions plan is nothing if not remarkable,” said Springmeyer. “The governor’s ‘Life Elevated’ market-tested slogan rings hallow if it includes radioactive waste 80 miles west of where I stand right now.”

Springmeyer said that as governor he would use the full power of his office to stop the politically powerful Salt Lake City-based company. “I join Congressman Matheson who has said for a long time that Utah should not be the world’s dumping ground for nuclear waste.”

Springmeyer mentioned that under the federal Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act, states are responsible for regulating access to low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities. And in March, the Utah Radiation Control Board adopted a resolution urging federal regulators to deny the EnergySolutions application.

“It’s clearly a state function that the governor apparently wants to sidestep for purely political reasons,” said Springmeyer.

According to The Associated Press, EnergySolutions’ political action committee, executives and investors poured nearly $400,000 into congressional campaigns since 2005, up from about $40,000 in the four previous years, Federal Election Commission reports show.

EnergySolutions increased lobbyist spending from $680,000 in 2006 to more than $1 million last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group.

In addition, the company has poured tens of thousands into community-based public relations projects, including purchase of naming rights for the former Delta Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

Gov. Huntsman has indicated his political ambitions extend beyond Utah, and he has been mentioned as a possible choice for vice president or other high-ranking official in a John McCain presidential administration.

Springmeyer said the governor’s dodge fits a pattern typified by a philosophy of governance by task force and a reluctance to challenge prominent members of his Utah Republican Party. “The governor and his Legislature seem to excel in governance by task force – on mine safety, on health care reform, on identifying renewable energy sources. But all too often ‘blue-ribbon’ panels merely forecast the death of good ideas. Real policy at the Capitol is decided behind closed doors … with the governor often missing in action.”

Springmeyer listed numerous issues in which the governor has preferred to stay in the background: Magna homeowners endangered because of negligent state oversight at Kennecott’s tailings pond, a possible nuclear power plant sited on the Green River that would require an enormous amount of water siphoned from the Colorado River watershed, uranium mining and its impact on miners’ health in the Four Corners area, reclamation of new and old mines across Utah, and the burning of uranium-contaminated waste in Layton.

“People often ask me why I would take on our popular governor,” Springmeyer said. “Well, I say, ‘Gov. Huntsman is a fine man from a family I admire greatly, but through several generations my family has witnessed the tragic consequences of failing to protect our air, our water, our jobs, and our schools.’

“I just say, ‘We must do better.’ ”

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