The ironic thing is, I like Energy Solutions.
I believe in the technology it uses, I believe in nuclear power, I believe in nuclear medicine, I believe the company runs a safe and useful operation.
In fact, when it was trying to import nuclear waste from Italy, and 80 percent of Utahns opposed it, I was on the company’s side. I made the argument repeatedly that waste was waste and a billion dollars was a billion dollars and it didn’t make any difference if they came from Italy.
I’ve been Energy Solutions' loudest unpaid defender.
But you can’t do the right thing the wrong way. And if Energy Solutions is to bring in more – or foreign – waste to its facility in Utah, it must do so by convincing Utahns, not forcing them.
And it must not use the federal government to strong arm nuclear filth onto a state whose people and elected officials oppose it.
And yet Energy Solutions and its hired lawyer – Senate candidate Mike Lee – have tried to do exactly that. With an annual paycheck of over a half a million dollars, Mike Lee has fought in court to suppress the will of Utahns and the actions of their elected representatives.
In a year when the state legislature was standing up for the constitutional principle of federalism – as Utah legislators tried to push back the federal domination of their state – Mike Lee was in federal court arguing for just the opposite.
Utahns had said, “No,” and Mike Lee was in court using his talents to convince a federal judge to overrule the wishes of the people and the decision of the state. The same guy whose campaign basically boils down to waving aloft a copy of the Constitution was hopping up and down in court as if the 10th Amendment didn’t exist.
It’s kind of like Mike Lee’s love of the Constitution has an on-off switch.
So, too, it seems do his principles.
For example, still on the nuclear waste issue, when he was the chief legal advisor to his political patron, Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., Mike Lee led the state effort to keep foreign waste out of Energy Solutions’ Tooele County facility.
But then his bread got buttered on the other side, and he changed his position completely. Out of government employ, on the tab of Energy Solutions, he argued exactly the opposite of what he had argued just months before.
How does someone do that?
Maybe in the world of big-ticket lawyers that makes sense, but out here where people speak their mind – not their master’s mind – it seems kooky. Either you’re for it or you’re against it, and in this matter, one time or the other, Mike Lee was passionately advocating something he didn’t believe in.
He was advancing legal arguments he believed to be false.
And for a guy who promises that every decision he makes as a United States senator will be based on the Constitution, he seems not to have applied that rule to his work as a lawyer.
All we know for sure is that when it was in his personal interest to oppose foreign nuclear waste, he did. And when it was in his personal interest to support foreign nuclear waste, he did.
Which brings us to one of his endorsements.
The one from the South Carolina senator, Jim DeMint. At the Republican nominating convention, before the final round of voting, Mike Lee played a video endorsement of his candidacy from Jim DeMint.
Where I sat in the hall, most people looked at one another quizzically, as if to ask, “Who’s this guy?”
Maybe in the wonk world of name-that-senator, Jim DeMint is a big cheese, but on the streets of Utah he’s just an old guy who talks funny.
But he likes Mike Lee. And he swears up and down that Mike Lee is the most conservative guy in this race. Which is preposterous. Though this Freudian fight over who’s the most conservative has gotten old, it is dishonest to say Tim Bridgewater is not conservative. You may not like him, and you may prefer Mike Lee, and you may feel very strongly about that, but whatever flaw you may see in Tim Bridgewater, not being conservative isn’t one of them.
Though I’m sure Jim DeMint is a great patriot, I am even more certain that he is the senator from South Carolina. And as such, his job is to take care of South Carolina and to stay in the good graces of its voters.
Many of whom work for Energy Solutions.
See, Utah isn’t the only state with a low-level nuke dump. For almost 40 years, in Barnwell County, Energy Solutions has run a South Carolina dump. Utah and South Carolina are the bread and butter of the Energy Solutions operation.
And being represented by senators who are very friendly to the nuclear industry and to the nuclear-waste industry is important to Energy Solutions.
Jim DeMint suits them to a T.
And, isn’t this a coincidence, it turns out that Energy Solutions’ favorite senator has decided to endorse Energy Solutions’ favorite lawyer in Tuesday’s primary.
Don’t that beat all.
It sounds like a really cozy club – the big nuclear waste company and its two pet senators.
The only losers could be the people, especially the people of Utah. Energy Solutions is pushing a plan now that would allow it to mix higher-level waste with low-level waste, increasing revenues for the company. The state of Utah has opposed this plan for waste at the Tooele facility and the very real issue is, as a senator, which side would Mike Lee take? The side of the state he represents or the side of the company that helped get him elected?
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m in favor of the use of nuclear power and materials, and I have complete confidence in Energy Solutions’ ability and commitment to storing waste safely. I am pro-nuclear, pro-storage and pro-Energy Solutions.
But the cards should be on the table.
And this Energy Solutions thread in Mike Lee’s financial and political success should be on the table.
And somebody who supports the Constitution should not be carrying water for an effort that forces states to take radioactive waste they don’t want. As a serious question: In light of the 10th Amendment, what in the Constitution empowers the federal government to force Utah to accept waste its people and state government don’t want?
Tim Bridgewater knows that nowhere in the Constitution is that power found. He says it’s a state’s decision, and he’s right.
This isn’t about nuclear waste, it’s about states’ powers – it’s about the rights of the people of a state to decide whether or not they want to host this material. It’s about keeping the federal government from forcing this stuff, or anything, down a state’s throat.
Mike Lee is on the wrong side of this issue.
He’s on the side of the company that made him rich, and on the side of the senator that company likes, but he’s not on the side of the people or the Constitution.
Not on this one.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2010