Downwinders optimistic that reintroduced bill will become law
By Blair Koch
Downwinders in Idaho have reason to applaud local senators who have reintroduced a 2005 proposal to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.
Expansion of the bill would allow downwinders in Idaho and Montana to be compensated by RECA, first passed in 1990. The bill currently covers victims in 21 counties in southern Utah, eastern Nevada and northern Arizona who suffer from any of 19 different cancers caused by exposure to radiation during nuclear weapons testing done in the 1950s and ’60s. Senators reintroduced the proposal Wednesday.
“There was an invitation (sent) out to Arizona and Utah to get in and support this bill, but we didn’t hear back from them,” said Lindsay Nothern, press secretary for Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. “So the bill will be a two-state bill.”
Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., back the bill as original co-sponsors.
“We applaud their efforts, and intend to raise heaven and hell to get other areas added and to hold the politicians of Utah and Arizona accountable for not being solidly on this bill from the beginning,” said J. Preston Truman, director of Downwinders, an organization representing fallout victims. “The rest of Utah and Mojave County in Arizona should be covered.”
Truman said the action is a serious bipartisan effort to get movement on expanding fallout compensation, but that it should include other western states as well.
Longtime Idaho Downwinder advocate Dr. Peter Rickards of Twin Falls said he is excited that Idaho is finally being acknowledged as having been hit by radiation.
“I think that we have a real chance at bringing this to pass,” Rickards said. “I hope this isn’t just lip service, but our delegation really seems to be going to bat for us.”
Even if the RECA expansion bill becomes law, Rickard said he won’t stop fighting to get other auto-immune diseases included for compensation.
Times-News correspondent Blair Koch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 316-2607.