A funny thing happened on the way to the public flogging of state radiation control regulators Tuesday: The company the regulators allowed to violate state laws and, therefore were chastised, was noticeably absent. Only the regulators got blasted, the violator itself was seemingly immune from lawmaker wrath.
It was the Legislative Audit Review Committee and the subject was a legislative audit that was critical of the state's oversight of Energy Solutions, the giant hazardous waste company.
Auditors found that radioactive waste classified as hotter than what state law allows were was actually transported to the Energy Solutions waste site in Tooele County, where it was buried.
And Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, was apoplectic about it.
"You've got some big problems," Waddoups told officials of the Department of Environmental Quality and its Division of Radiation Control.
He steamed at the regulators for not taking a more active role in determining what kind of waste was coming to the Tooele site and for leveling fines for violations that were discovered that were so wimpy they were not a deterrent.
The audit found that the state regulators relied on the company, federal regulators and others in the hazardous waste industry to tell them what kind of waste was being buried in Utah.
But no harsh words were saved for the company that committed the violations in the first place: Energy Solutions.
And when Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, attempted to bring Energy Solutions into the conversation, he was abruptly cut off by House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, who said Energy Solutions is a private company and the audit was aimed at the state regulatory system to help lawmakers decide whether that system is adequate or should be changed.
But Romero pointed out that Energy Solutions issued a response to the study that was published in the audit and should be available for questions to that response. He also pointed out that Energy Solutions was probably the only source that could explain the process of transporting the waste to Utah, how the waste is blended that might make it exceed the legal limits and other details.
He said he was disappointed Energy Solutions was not there to answer those questions.
Of course, Romero is a Democrat. When it comes to benefitting from the presence of Energy Solutions, it is much better to be a Republican.
And it is understandalbe that Lockhart, especially, would be protective of Energy Solutions and its officials.
After all, as has been reported, Energy Solutions has contributed $11,500 this year to political action committees Lockhart controls. That would be the House Republican Election Committee and the Speaker's Victory Fund.
But it goes way beyond that.
There is the Utah County Legislative PAC: (kaching), $5,000. There is the Utah Republican Party: (kaching),$25,000. There is the House Conservative Caucus: (kaching), $5,000. And there are countless contributions to members of the House and the Senate, mostly Republicans, of course (kaching, kaching, kaching).
And those figures are just for one year. Looking at financial disclosure forms of yore reveals the tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to legislators, PACs and political parties are repeated year after year.
Energy Solutions has benefitted from regulatory laws that have benefitted the company over the years, not to mention fees and taxes that are much lower than other states that have radioactive waste storage facilities.
So keep those checks coming and when you are caught doing something wrong, bang the regulators over the head.