Politicians plan nuclear-waste forum | ParkRecord.com

Politicians plan nuclear-waste forum

Parkites have not heard a whole lot so far from the local Statehouse candidates but they will get a chance to listen to a cadre of them talk about nuclear waste on Thursday.

Though the topic seems to have more relevance in other parts of Utah, the organizers of a forum say that the issue is important in Summit County.

The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, widely known as HEAL Utah, plans what is being billed as an event to educate voters and meet the candidates in Park City. The event is scheduled on Oct. 5 at 6:30 p.m. in Miners Hospital in City Park.

John Urgo, who coordinates grassroots activities for HEAL Utah, says that the issue should be important to people in Summit County even though the county is not a candidate for storing nuclear waste.

He says, for instance, that potential transportation routes should be of interest since Interstate 80 travels through Summit County.

"It impacts the state as a whole," he says.

Urgo also claims that people considering visiting Utah could be swayed to another destination if the state is seen as a place where nuclear waste is stored.

"People won’t want to ski in Utah if it’s the dumping ground," Urgo says.

In a prepared statement, HEAL Utah claims that, "much of that waste is trucked through Summit County" on Interstate 80 and Interstate 84.

"Unfortunately, our state’s license plates could read, ‘The greatest waste on earth’ rather than ‘The greatest snow on earth," Urgo says in the prepared statement. "Utah being the nation’s dumping ground isn’t the message we want out there, but that perception can certainly have a negative impact on business and recreational interests in Summit County."

Urgo says that seven candidates have indicated that they will attend the Thursday forum. They are running in the state Senate District 26, the House District 25 and the House District 53 contests. Each of the districts represents parts of Summit County, making the event potentially one of the largest gatherings of Statehouse candidates scheduled in Summit County before Election Day.

HEAL Utah says that the Legislature in 2007 will make choices regarding the waste, meaning that the opinions of the candidates on the November ballot are critical as people decide who to vote for.

"Summit County legislators will be asked to make important decisions regarding public health and the environment during the 2007 legislative session," Urgo says in the prepared statement. "What most people don’t realize is how easy it is to make a difference by making their voice heard. And if you can do that before Election Day, it makes even more of an impact."

The organizers plan 90 minutes of discussion before a one-hour candidate forum. The discussion is scheduled from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. The candidates are slated to discuss the issues from 8 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Urgo says he expects between 20 and 30 people will attend the forum.

EnergySolutions stores radioactive material in the desert west of the Salt Lake Valley and is the company that has spurred much of the discussions.

A spokesman for the company says that EnergySolutions currently does not plan to seek legislation in the 2007 session.

On its Web site, EnergySolutions touts the "highest standards of safety," "environmental sensitivity," "operational efficiency" and "innovative solutions" as its values.

Jill Sheinberg, a Parkite who is on the board of HEAL Utah, says the state should avoid being labeled as one of America’s waste sites and the perception that Utah has "snow that glows."

"I think it’s very important we stop Utah from being seen as the radioactive dumpsite of the country," Sheinberg says.

She argues that other spots should be considered as well.

"The national solution to dirty waste shouldn’t be our state," Sheinberg says.

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