State forks over $844K for Goshute, PFS lawyers
Taxpayers will cover $844,000 in legal expenses incurred by the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes and its allies when they fought legislation aimed at keeping high-level nuclear waste out of Utah.
The Legislative Management Committee approved the settlement payment Tuesday after Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s endorsement this week.
The project to store spent nuclear fuel rods in Utah has been effectively killed by two recent U.S. Interior Department rulings.
In the separate legal case, which Utah lost, the state settled with the Goshutes and Private Fuel Storage on a bill for $1.3 million in legal fees spent in defeating five state laws. Federal courts struck down the laws as unconstitutional.
The case began in 2001, when lawmakers and then-Gov. Mike Leavitt joined in opposition to a fuel storage site on the reservation about 50 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
The bills passed included banning high-level nuclear waste and promising economic development for the Goshutes. The Goshutes and PFS challenged the bills' constitutionality.
Dianne Nielson, executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, said the state was paying all of the Goshutes' legal costs - $68,795 - and about 62 percent of that of PFS - $775,000 - which will go to the law firm Parsons, Behle and Latimer.
"The time and the money the state spent in raising these issues have been essential and successful," Nielson said.