J Truman’s earliest memory is of sitting as a child on his father’s knee in Enterprise, Utah, transfixed by a show in the sky from nuclear-bomb testing in nearby Nevada, including watching pink-gray fallout clouds pass overhead.

“My parents died from cancer,” he says, blaming those radioactive clouds. So Truman, director of Downwinders, Inc., has fought since the 1970s for compensation for victims. A bill by Sen. Orrin Hatch and the late Rep, Wayne Owens in 1990, and expanded in 2000, gave money to victims in 10 southern Utah counties.

Now Truman hails new legislation that proposes finally offering payments to victims in all of Utah — and neighboring states. And payments under the plan would grow from $50,000 for downwind cancer victims to the same $150,000 paid to Nevada Test Site workers. People who received the lower payment could apply to get the additional $100,000.

“Salt Lake County was hit just as hard by fallout” from some nuclear tests as areas in southern Utah that have long qualified for compensation, Truman says. “So was the Uinta Basin,” according to federal fallout studies ordered by the earlier bills.

In this Monday, Oct. 3, 2016 photo, panelist J Truman, a lifelong downwinder activist, speaks at the launch event for “Downwinders of Utah Archive” at the J. Willard Marriott Libray at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. Playwright Mary Dickson, whose 2007 play “Exposed” chronicled the effects the above ground nuclear tests had on the downwind population in Utah is at right. The new University of Utah archive about the state’s “downwinders” features oral histories, photographs and newspapers clippings documenting the impact of nuclear testing during the 1950s in Nevada. (Al Hartmann /The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

“We need justice. Not ‘just us.’ There must be equal justice for all exposed and sickened,” Truman says. He adds that the $50,000 offered to some through earlier bills “doesn’t even cover the first round of chemo.”

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Rep. Ben Lujan, D-N.M., are sponsoring the new legislation — mostly to help victims in their states that had been excluded. No Utah members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors so far.

Similar bills have been introduced for the past eight years with no action, but Crapo managed finally to win a hearing last month in the Senate Judiciary Committee. “This hearing has been a long time in coming,” Crapo said there.

The senator complains that 20 of the 25 U.S. counties hardest hit by radioactive Iodine-131 were in Idaho and Montana, where residents received no compensation.

His bill would now cover victims of cancers tied to radiation in all of Utah, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Guam (because of Pacific ocean nuclear tests).

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, left, and the committee's ranking member Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, listen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 13, 2017, as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testified before the committee. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Crapo said he’s talked to many Idaho farmers who awoke after a 1952 nuclear test to “find their pastures and orchards covered with a fine white dust. It seemingly appeared out of nowhere. It looked like frost. But it was not cold to touch.” It was fallout, and he said no one warned farmers about its dangers.

Crapo complained that the government has long known, because of studies in Utah, about unexplained clusters of cancer downwind of nuclear tests. “That was 40 years ago. However, there are still a number of those affected who are still waiting for the government to do the right thing and make them eligible for compensation.”

Eltona Henderson, with Idaho Downwinders, testified that her native rural Gem County, Idaho, has been devastated by cancer that she blames on the nuclear tests — and has collected the names of 1,060 cancer victims from there. “Some entire families have been wiped out by cancer, where there was no cancer before the 1950s.”

She added, “It seems that because of the nuclear testing, our ‘Valley of Plenty’ is now ’The Valley of Death…. I have 38 people in my family that have had cancer, 14 have died from the disease,“ adding most did not have lifestyles that otherwise would have increased their likelihood for cancer.

Earlier bills also never compensated victims downwind of the nation’s first Trinity atomic bomb test in New Mexico, which developed the bombs dropped on Japan at the end of World War II. Tina Cordova of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders protested that omission at the hearing.

FILE - This July 16, 1945 file photo shows an aerial view after the first atomic explosion at Trinity Test Site, N.M. A report is scheduled to be released Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, on the health effects of the people who lived near the site of the world's first atomic bomb test. The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium will release the health assessment report, on residents of a historic Hispanic village of Tularosa near the Trinity Test in the New Mexico desert. (AP Photo, File)

“The radioactive fallout settled on everything. On the soil, in the water, in the air, on the plants, and on the skin of every living thing,” she said. “The New Mexico Downwinders are the collateral damage that resulted from the development and testing of the first atomic bomb.”

Hatch and Owens in earlier decades said a major problem of passing compensation bills was their cost, and Truman said it is also an ongoing problem with new legislation.

Justice Department data show that more than $1 billion has been paid to 21,649 downwiders through the years, “and that’s just covering some rural counties. If bigger urban areas were added, that number could really take off,” Truman said.

When compensation is added in that was paid to workers at the Nevada Test Site and at uranium mines and mills, the U.S. government has paid $2.26 billion in radiation compensation.

Studies have said radiation from nuclear tests hit virtually every county in the nation to some extent.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., joined by, from left, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., Bonnie Lautenberg, widow of the late New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., talks about bipartisan legislation to improve the federal regulation of chemicals and toxic substances, Thursday, May 19, 2016, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Sen. Udall is the sponsor of the bill which was initiated by Sen. Frank Lautenberg. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., whose father, former Interior Secretary Stuart Udall, started early lawsuits seeking downwinder compensation in Utah, said paying some but not other victims is a grave injustice. “We must do everything we can now to make sure the many unwilling Cold War victims and their families are compensated.”

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said the new legislation “is about confronting the dark corners of our country and working to bring on the light,” and is about “making sure we do right by people who were wronged when our nation was building up and testing its nuclear arsenal.”