Delegation urges quick action to find alternatives to incinerator

Tuesday, February 01, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) - Impatient with progress toward finding alternatives to burning radioactive waste at a laboratory in Idaho, Wyoming's congressional delegation has asked the Clinton administration to step up its review of possible options.

The three Republicans, Sens. Mike Enzi and Craig Thomas and Rep. Barbara Cubin, in a letter to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, reiterated their concern that a proposed incinerator west of Idaho Falls, Idaho, could pose a health and environmental threat to Wyoming and its two national parks.

"It is interesting that at a time when President Clinton continues to designate additional national monuments around the West in the name of protecting our natural and cultural heritage, the administration has done little to address an issue which potentially threatens two of the 'crown jewels' in the park system," they wrote.

About 1,000 people attended a hearing in Jackson on the project last week, the delegation wrote. "Clearly, folks in our state are concerned about the incinerator and would like to see other alternatives fully explored.

"Unfortunately, although you and other officials in the Clinton administration have indicated a willingness to explore alternatives to incineration, nothing has happened."

The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory is about 90 miles west of Jackson. Some Wyoming residents are concerned toxic particles could blow into their state.

The incinerator would reduce the amount of hazardous waste to be trucked to a nuclear waste storage facility in New Mexico.

"We understand the department is operating under a court order and must address this matter in a timely fashion," the letter states. "However, to dismiss the views of the people in our state regarding the incinerator is unacceptable and will only create further delays in finding a permanent solution to this situation."

Idaho officials have not yet granted remaining permits for the incinerator.