Governors want nuclear testing compensation expanded
BOISE, Idaho — Atmospheric nuclear weapons testing exposed more states and more people to radiation fallout and resulting cancers and other diseases than the federal government currently recognizes, Western governors said.
The Western Governors' Association on Oct. 18 sent letters signed by Oregon Democratic Gov. Kate Brown and North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum to the U.S. Senate and U.S. House urging passage of proposed changes to a law involving "downwinders."
The U.S. between 1945 and 1992 conducted more than 1,000 nuclear weapons tests, nearly 200 in the atmosphere. Most were conducted in Western states or islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The changes to the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act would add all of Nevada, Arizona and Utah, and include for the first time downwinders in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and the island territory of Guam.
During the nuclear testing, farmers would go out to their fields on summer mornings to find them covered with dust carried on the wind from the nuclear blasts, said Tona Henderson, the director of Idaho Downwinders. The dust occurred so often, she said, it picked up the name "summer frost."
Besides downwinders, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act also includes money for workers made sick during uranium ore mining and milling activities that took place in 11 states in the Western U.S.
Governor says he anticipates more budget cuts
With a month until his administration releases its first budget, Gov. Mark Gordon said all ideas to trim spending are on the table in 2020, explaining that Wyoming appears to be entering “a new period” in its history as the outlook for fossil fuels as the state’s primary economic driver grows increasingly grim.
In a conference call with reporters Oct. 15, Gordon said that he anticipates a number of cuts to be included in his proposed budget, setting the stage for a major funding debate in a Legislature still smarting from massive reductions in spending two years ago.
A fiscal conservative, Gordon has stressed improving government efficiency as an overriding theme of this year’s budget, urging each department in state government to evaluate what it could do to streamline operations and cut costs in a way that has as little impact on taxpayers as possible.
Throughout the summer, the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Committee on Revenue has been working to find ways to broaden the state’s revenue streams, so far balking at all but the smallest solutions. At the same time, Gordon’s Energy Futures Modeling Group has submitted a number of pessimistic early scenarios for the state’s revenue outlook.
The governor, who has long been opposed to any tax increases, has been reluctant to endorse a number of revenue-raising proposals working their way through the Legislature, including a corporate income tax and an increase to the gas tax – a small solution to addressing part of a massive, multi-million dollar shortfall facing the state.
Son of Superman editor demands return of archive after Cheney comments
For years, the University of Wyoming has managed the collection of comic book editor Mort Weisinger, who was the story editor of D.C.’s “Superman” comics for three decades.
But after all that time, UW, the home of those collections since 1982, could be losing the archives — because of recent comments by Wyoming’s Republican Congresswoman, Liz Cheney.
On Oct. 15, Weisinger’s son – Connecticut-based author and psychologist Hank Weisinger – contacted the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center demanding the return of his father’s papers from their collections, a move he said was in retaliation for heavily-criticized comments Cheney made a day earlier on Fox News.
Weisinger said he’ll usually watch five minutes of the conservative-leaning Fox News Channel, in order to “see the distortions” of the day’s events, he said.
It was then he heard Cheney say that Turkey’s invasion of Syria – the result of President Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to pull troops from the region – was partially the fault of Democrats.
Cheney’s remarks, Weisinger said, made him decide to pull his father’s collections, saying his reasons were not about publicity, but about principle.
“Superman’s values were ‘truth, justice and the American way,’” Weisinger said. “And I cannot have my father’s papers at a university represented by a congresswoman who is the exact opposite.”
For UW – whose collections include the personal papers of legendary Marvel artist Stan Lee – the loss would be a significant one. According to a university official, the collection has been put to good use over the last 37 years, regularly consulted by researchers, journalists, and interested members of the public as well as students of all ages.
Mormon church opposes state’s 'conversion therapy' ban
SALT LAKE CITY — A proposed ban on so-called conversion therapy in Utah is in danger of being derailed after the influential Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-day Saints came out on Oct. 15 in opposition, just months after it said it wouldn't stand in the way of a similar measure under consideration.
The church said in a statement that the regulatory rule prohibiting Utah psychologists from engaging in the discredited practice with LGBTQ minors would fail to safeguard religious beliefs and doesn't account for "important realities of gender identity in the development of children."
State regulators crafted the rule at the request of Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, a member of the church, who in June asked for a set of rules after a similar bill died in the Legislature despite the church not taking a position.
The church's statement strikes a blow to the hopes of LGBTQ advocates hoping Utah could join 18 states that have enacted laws banning or restricting the practice opposed by the American Psychological Association.
The faith widely known as the Mormon church accounts for nearly two-thirds of the state's residents, and nearly every state lawmaker. It's unknown how the church's position will impact the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing's pending decision.
The opposition comes after one of the religion's top leaders, Dallin H. Oaks, said this month that a person's gender assigned at birth is "essential to the plan of salvation,” in remarks reminiscent of a time in the 1970s when the faith taught that homosexuality could be "cured." The church has since said homosexuality is not a sin, though it remains opposed to same-sex marriage and intimacy.
State authority shares excess emissions data online
SANTA FE — The New Mexico Environment Department is sharing emissions data with the public on its website as it works on new regulations aimed at reducing pollution.
The department says the data involves excess emissions of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants that are self-reported by oil and gas companies, pipeline and refinery operators and others.
Environment Secretary James Kenney says self-reporting is helpful in understanding air quality impacts in communities around the state and that compliance with permits and regulations is expected by those communities where industry operates.
The department says the pollutants make up a large part of the state's greenhouse gas emissions and are contributing to ozone levels in seven New Mexico counties.
While excess emissions are not necessarily violations, officials say they present an opportunity for reductions.