This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The new, nine-member committee guarding Utah's radioactive chicken coop will have only two foxes on it. One who works for the nation's largest nuclear waste storage company and one who works for the mining industry.
If it had just been Gov. Gary Herbert's idea to choose, out of 2.8 million Utahns, one executive each from EnergySolutions and Kennecott Utah Copper for seats on the new Radiation Control Board, people might have wondered what sort of back-scratching deal-making was going on. It would be like naming a Rocky Mountain Power executive to the Public Service Commission. Or an inmate to the Utah Parole Board.
But the sad fact is that the latest legislation on that and other state environmental boards, as laid out this spring by SB21, gave Herbert no choice. (Other than to veto the bill. But that's all radioactive ooze under the barrier by now.)
As part of that broad daylight move to make those bodies less regulatory and more friendly to some of the state's most troublesome industries, the new law shrank the size, and the powers, of the boards that oversee radioactive waste, air quality, water quality, drinking water and solid waste.
The Radiation Control Board was shrunk from 13 members to nine. And the law, sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton but drafted by the Utah Manufacturers Association, reserves one spot for a representative of the nuclear waste storage industry and one spot for a representative of the uranium milling industry. Because EnergySolutions is the only game in town when it comes to the nuclear waste storage business, Herbert tapped that company's regulatory compliance manager, Dan Shrum, for that seat.
The argument that a nuclear waste oversight body ought to include people who know something about nuclear waste is valid. The idea that the company this panel will regulate, or fail to regulate, ought to sit on its own jury is not.
The law also reserves a seat for "an environmental nongovernmental organization," which Herbert has filled by appointing Sarah Fields, of Moab-based Uranium Watch. That will help to balance the scales a little.
But it would make more sense for the board to be composed entirely of outside, or retired, experts. Even if the EnergySolutions member of the Radiation Control Board abstains from the votes affecting his employer which stand to be most of them his mere presence cannot help but undermine public confidence in the body.
And public confidence is the only part of the process more important than expert understanding.