"WANTED: Attorneys at law with strong environmental skills. Must be opposed to storage of tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste on the Goshute Reservation west of Salt Lake City. Must work for free. Call Gov. Mike Leavitt, 538-1000."
You might not find that advertisement in today's classified section, but that hasn't stopped Leavitt from making a public appeal for attorneys who will represent, free of charge, members of the Goshute tribe who are opposed to their tribal government's plans to store as much as 40 million tons of waste there."I am aware right now there are members of the Goshute tribe who would like to be involved in the litigation but are currently lacking resources," Leavitt told attorneys attending the J. Reuben Clark Law Society luncheon at the Joseph Smith Building on Tuesday. "If a resourceful group of lawyers interested in this were willing to offer their services pro bono . . . I would be happy to introduce you (to those Goshutes)."
The invitation to assist the state's fight against the nuclear waste is the latest round of Leavitt's highly publicized campaign to use every means to persuade Private Fuel Storage to look somewhere besides Utah for a temporary storage site for spent nuclear fuel rods.
Leavitt said he has been in contact individually with board members of the various utilities involved in the PFS consortium, and he intends to meet with their boards of directors and officers of the companies "to make it clear that we don't want it and we intend to resist it."
Acknowledging there isn't a lot the state can do to block the interstate shipment of the waste to the Goshutes, Leavitt nonetheless outlined the state's legal strategy to make it tough on PFS to get the permits it needs to move the waste. He promised that every environmental and regulatory step of the process will be challenged.
"It will be a long, protracted and aggressive environmental scrap on this," he said. "We do not intend to have this come, and there will not be anywhere along the way we intend to let them go unchallenged in meeting every requirement of every piece of environmental impact they are required to undergo."
Consequently, that process may drag out for years. Leavitt fully expects the issue to remain unresolved long after he has left public service.
Leavitt also used the luncheon to defend the state's action in confiscating a county access road, called the Skull Valley Road, to the potential waste dump site. The county has likened that action to President Bill Clinton's unilateral designation of a new national monument in southern Utah without the knowledge or consent of Utahns.
But Leavitt said the county was negotiating with PFS for a cash payment in exchange for the county's support for the project, and that an agreement was imminent. Leavitt had been advised long before that controlling access to the site was the state's only hope to regulate the waste, and he also recognized that if the state acted after an agreement was struck between the county and PFS that any state action to confiscate the road could face legal hurdles.
"I told the commissioners that the financial benefit of one county did not justify endangering the public safety and health of the rest of the state," he said. "We're talking about the health and safety of 2 million people ... and I would call that a compelling state need."
Minneapolis-based PFS has applied for a permit to store the waste on the Goshute Reservation about 40 west of Salt Lake City. That application is the first step in a complex process that is expected to last four or five years.