Environmental activists are calling on state Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, to resign his position as co-chairman of a legislative task force studying waste issues after he reportedly made disparaging comments about waste opponents while attending a function sponsored by Envirocare of Utah, a private low-level radioactive waste facility in Tooele County.
The organization Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL) has formally requested that Senate President Al Mansell ask for Bramble's resignation.
"Not only were Sen. Bramble's comments demeaning, disrespectful and unbecoming of an elected official, they also reflect a total bias (in favor of) the nuclear waste industry," said Jason Groenewold, director of HEAL.
The Tooele Transcript Bulletin reported that Bramble attended a March 5 gathering of Envirocare employees and supporters where he made the comment that HEAL was an acronym for "Help Educate Anal Liberals."
Bramble and Mansell did not return Deseret Morning News calls.
According to the Tooele newspaper account, Bramble said the acronym comment was a joke. "I may make jokes about acronyms, but I wouldn't shut down their right to exercise free speech," the paper reported.
Claire Geddes with Utah Legislative Watch wonders why a Utah County senator was in Tooele County helping employees organize to become party delegates.
"I can think of only one reason: So Envirocare can manipulate the political process," she said. "They obviously have one Utah senator in their pocket."
Bramble co-chairs the Hazardous Waste Regulation and Tax Policy Task Force that is considering all waste issues in the state, including the taxation of companies that accept waste. But among the most contentious issues is whether or not Envirocare should be allowed to accept hotter radioactive wastes than their current state and federal licenses allow.
The task force is supposed to make recommendations to the 2005 Legislature.
Bramble's presence at the meeting and his comments about opponents of hotter waste cast doubts on his objectivity, Geddes said. "His comments taint the credibility of the entire task force."
"If he can be that blatant (about his biases) publicly and not be removed from the task force, then we have a much bigger problem on Capitol Hill than I ever thought we did," she added.