Orrin, please change your mind on new RECA bill

St. George Spectrum

Orrin, please change your mind on new RECA bill

When it comes to politics, there's quite a difference in the paths Sen. Orrin Hatch and I walk.

Politics aside, however, I have a true fondness for the man.

I disagree with him on a lot of issues. We've had some lively exchanges in person and over the telephone for more than a dozen years. Still, I am quite fond of him personally. I've seen his heart, warmth and compassion on more than one occasion.

That's why I'd like my old friend to reconsider his position on a congressional proposal to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., has put forth a measure that would open up all counties in Utah to RECA compensation, as well as provide benefits for people in Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Montana who were also victims of fallout from the nuclear explosions detonated at the Nevada Test Site during the Cold War.

About $1.5 billion has been awarded to more than 22,000 victims so far. Studies, however, prove that more - many, many more - people were stricken with cancer as a result of the winds that blew slow death over the North American continent.

It rained down onto our grasslands, where cows ingested it and passed it on to our babies in their milk. It infested our crops, our water. It filled the air with invisible particles of poison that the federal government denied for years was there.

It struck our neighbors, friends, families.

Until now, RECA benefits were fairly limited geographically and by disease. Udall's proposal would open the door a bit wider to allow others the comfort of at least having some money to pay their medical bills.

Sen. Hatch, who co-wrote and fought for the original RECA bill that passed in 1990, is opposed to this new measure because he says it is "overly broad and prohibitively expensive" and that he would like any future measures to be based on sound science.

That's where I get a little puzzled because there is some very sound scientific evidence already out there. One study comes from the National Cancer Institute and Centers for Disease Control that estimated about 80,000 people who lived or were born in the United States between 1951 and 2000 would contract cancer as a result of fallout from the Nevada Test Site.

Upon release of the preliminary numbers, however, the Bush administration stepped in and cancelled all additional studies and research. There are many who believe it was because there was an indication additional research would finger the government for considerably higher mortality and infection numbers.

Then there are the studies by researcher Richard Miller, including his frightening map that shows how all 48 of the contiguous United States and parts of Mexico and Canada had this poison dropped upon them as the nuclear dust drifted in the atmosphere.

It was the worst assault on American soil in the history of this nation, and it came from our own government, Sen. Hatch. You understand that, I'm sure. Why else would you have fought so hard for passage of the original legislation?

Yes, I agree that government has rung up a horrific deficit, that there are programs out there not worth a damn that are continually overfunded, that the public good has been given over to pork-barrel politics.

And, yes, my dear friend, it would be terribly expensive, but think of the innocent victims.

Orrin, I have seen your compassion and human depth. I know the softness in your heart.

Please do not allow politics to get in the way of what is morally right.

Change your mind. Support Sen. Udall's proposal.

Please.

Contact Local News Editor Ed Kociela at ekociela@thespectrum.com or call 674-6237.