IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed an executive order establishing the Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission 2.0 during his visit to the Idaho National Laboratory on Wednesday.
Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter on Wednesday announced a new Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission.
Otter said the new group will be known as LINE II, and will act to insure the original commission's suggestions regarding Idaho's nuclear future are followed.
Our station asked the governor whether the pressure of the sequestration will prove a challenge for the new commission in the months and years to come?
"We asked the president to give us the flexibility," said Otter, recounting a meeting between dozens of the nation's governors and President Obama earlier in 2013.
"We can take the hit," said Otter. "A 2 and a half percent hit to the federal funds that come into the state of Idaho. We understand the reason for it, the necessity for it. But take the red tape out of it. Give us the flexibility to move that to critical mission, instead of this insane across the board cut."
Otter said lawmakers in Washington weren't prepared for across-the-board cuts because they thought they could be avoided. Now that sequestration is a reality, Otter said states like Idaho need to be able to decide where the cuts are made in respect to what's important at home.
"If we get that flexibility, we know what the critical missions are here at the lab," said Otter.
Wednesday marked an important announcement from Otter -- creation of a second Leadership In Nuclear Energy Commission. Freshman Idaho Falls GOP representative Wendy Horman said as the sequestration cuts become more clear.
"I think that's where LINE commission II comes in, where we can assess what our capacity is out there," said Horman.
Horman and fellow republican representative Jeff Thompson were at Otter's side for his announcement.
Thompson was a member of the original LINE commission and said despite the potential for cuts, he doesn't see the Idaho National Lab's primary mission changing:
"I think the funding will continually be there that they need for that research," said Thompson.
Otter has not decided how many commissioners will serve on LINE commission II.
The original LINE Commission was given a year to assess and quantify the opportunities and challenges associated with hosting the INL and a significant nuclear manufacturing and services sector that has emerged as a result of the U.S. Department of Energy site. The commission wrapped up its initial scope of work at the end of January, submitting its final report to the governor.
One of the more prominent recommendations of the original LINE Commission was that the state consider helping the federal government solve its nuclear waste storage problem.
"The men and women who served on the initial commission and its five subcommittees did a lot of heavy lifting over the past year, and I thank them for their service. They identified many things the state and INL have done right over the years, and they brought to the forefront several issues that demand continued attention – namely, the nation's failure to open a permanent used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste repository and significant budget cuts that threaten continued cleanup and research operations in Idaho," Otter said in a news release. "With other states potentially targeting the federal dollars that have so efficiently been put to use on INL's successful cleanup and research efforts, Idaho must aggressively assert its support for the site's future as the nation's lead nuclear lab. So it's critical to extend and expand the commission's duties through LINE 2.0."
In the executive order creating LINE 2.0, Otter said fiscal responsibility demands that the INL's assets be fully leveraged to carry out federal responsibilities for nuclear energy research oversight and materials management, rather than allowing tax dollars to be wasted creating redundant facilities and programs elsewhere.
"The findings of my initial LINE Commission reinforced the importance of constantly working to balance the benefits and burdens of hosting the nation's leading nuclear energy research center, and of paying attention to the kind of business environment we have for Idaho's nuclear industries sector beyond the INL," Otter said. "Idaho's safety and economic security demand a stronger public-private partnership on this issue, and creating LINE 2.0 is one of the best possible ways of achieving that."
The membership of LINE 2.0 will be drawn from state government, academia, Idaho's nuclear industries sector and the general public.
We'll have more tonight at 5 and 6 on Local News 8 and at 5:30 on KIDK Eyewitness News.