An Idaho company has accused Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions Inc. of cutthroat tactics, using two front groups to derail its bid to clean up a Missouri radioactive waste site.
American Ecology Corp. filed a complaint Thursday with the Idaho elections office against Harold Skamser, a veteran lobbyist working for the week-old nonprofit group Citizens for a Clean Idaho. The group is headed by former Utah developer Stephen Loosli, whose new Idaho company, okosphare, is paying Skamser and "fronting for EnergySolutions," American Ecology says in its complaint.
EnergySolutions and the Idahoans deny any ties with one another. But American Ecology President Steve Romano said his company's two-year effort to win approval for slightly radioactive waste has had community and political support until now.
"I have not a shred of doubt in my mind," he said, "that they [at EnergySolutions] are behind this."
At stake is a contract to dispose of 50,000 tons of cleanup waste from a Westinghouse factory that was once used to make nuclear fuel. The contract is worth millions -- perhaps as much as $20 million -- and the only two sites eligible to compete for it are EnergySolutions' Utah site and American Ecology's low-level landfill in Grand View, Idaho.
Both are permitted to accept only certain types of low-level radioactive waste -- not high-level reactor waste.
But Loosli said Friday he was too busy with his home-building business when he lived in Utah to know anything more about EnergySolutions than that it has its name on the former Delta Center. He started Clean Idaho with some like-minded residents who are concerned the American Ecology site just isn't suitable for what he called the "extremely high-level" Westinghouse waste.
"Absolutely, I can state we have nothing to do with EnergySolutions," he said, adding that his group has no beef with American Ecology.
Meanwhile, Skamser registered last week to lobby on behalf of the Idaho nonprofit group. The group's goal, he said, is to persuade the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to hold a public hearing on the special approval Westinghouse needs to send its waste to American Ecology.
When asked about any involvement by EnergySolutions, he said: "I can't tell you who all the contributors are. I do not know, and it's something [nonprofits] don't have to disclose. ... Anybody can join."
EnergySolutions provided a written statement Friday when asked to comment on American Ecology's claim.
"EnergySolutions has communicated directly to its client [Westinghouse] its view that highly enriched uranium (HEU) should not be disposed in a landfill that is not licensed to receive this material, and we have informed the client that we would express this position to the NRC during its comment period," the statement said. "Anyone attributing the actions of environmentalists or others to EnergySolutions is obviously trying to make a headline for themselves."
Betsie Kimbrough, supervisor of elections for the state of Idaho, said Idaho law requires lobbyists to truthfully disclose who pays their salaries. Violating that law is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $250 fine.
Skamser has until Sept. 4 to respond to American Ecology's complaint, she said.
On Friday, American Ecology sent a letter to Clean Idaho to demand the removal of "patently false statements" from its Web page, statements that the Grand View site is "unregulated," "unlicensed" and a risk to the Snake River.
"We wish to advise you that these and other false and grossly misleading statements may give rise to future legal action," the letter said.
Loosli said he had the controversial wording removed from the Web site, but it was still there Friday evening.
The intrigue in Idaho echoes a fight that erupted this summer in Texas, where Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists is poised to complete the approvals for the first new, low-level radioactive waste site in the U.S. since the Utah landfill received its first permit in 1987.
WCS filed suit last month against an upstart environmental group, Save Our Ogallala Aquifer, and its leader, Adam H. Greenwood. Greenwood, a Brigham Young University graduate and former environmental lawyer at an Albuquerque corporate law firm, did not respond to requests for comment. Greenwood's group alleges that the site is above the drinking water source for eight states, while WCS insists the site "poses no threat to the drinking water supply."