Letters From the West

Andrus calls Risch an obstructionist on White Clouds

Former Democratic Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus called Republican Sen. Jim Risch an “obstructionist” for stopping Republican Rep. Mike Simpson’s Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill.

The two men fought regularly when Risch was Idaho Senate Pro Tem and Andrus was governor in the 1980s. So Andrus got personal when he chided Risch for withdrawing his support for Simpson’s bill, describing Risch as “this little short guy” who stopped Simpson’s Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act from getting out of the Senate.

“I apologize, not for what I said previously, but that I said he was short,” Andrus said. Because of Risch, he has supported having President Obama designate the 500,000-acre Boulder-White Clouds and Jerry Peak areas as a national monument.

“We need to get the protection of that area now,” Andrus said at the Crystal Ballroom in the Hoff Building Tuesday.

Cecil Andrus, elected Governor four times (1970, 1974, 1986 and 1990) and served four years as Secretary of the Interior under President Jimmy Carter, and responsible for protecting 103 million acres in Alaska.

Cecil Andrus was elected Governor four times (1970, 1974, 1986 and 1990) and served four years as Secretary of the Interior under President Jimmy Carter, and responsible for protecting 103 million acres in Alaska.

Andrus, speaking at the 200th talk of the Idaho Environmental Forum regaled the group of professionals he addressed when they formed in 1989, with stories of cooperation and collaboration from his past as governor and Interior Secretary.
He also blasted the Department of Energy for missing a 2012 deadline for getting 900,000 gallons of liquid sodium waste sitting over the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer shipped out of the state. Under the 1995 agreement the federal government was supposed to already have treated the waste in a new $571 million treatment facility that has had problems.

The plant would turn the liquid into relatively stable dry calcined pellets.

Andrus suggested the material is not safely stored as it is in underground tanks that while double-lined are very old with old pumping that could leak. He said it threatens Idaho’s trout farms, its dairy industry and even its potatoes if the highly radioactive material were to leak into the aquifer.

He also criticized the Leadership In Nuclear Energy Commission, appointed by Gov. Butch Otter as too one-sided for the nuclear industry. He challenged Commerce Secretary Jeff Sayer’s assertion that the Idaho National Laboratory will lose research funding if it doesn’t help DOE resolve its nuclear waste problems.

“That’s a bunch of malarkey,” Andrus said.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West