Clint Didier and Dan Newhouse, the two candidates to replace Rep. Doc Hastings in Congress, discussed Hanford and other issues after taking the stage together for the first time Wednesday since the August primary.
Didier, an Eltopia farmer and former NFL tight end, admitted he was regressing from a statement he made at a July candidate forum, where he questioned why more than $2 billion in federal funding was needed annually for Hanford cleanup.
“All we’ve done is touched the low-hanging fruit,” he told the audience of more than 300 at the Three Rivers Convention Center. “We have to have accountability out there. We need cleanup to happen, this is our backyard. We, the people of the Columbia Basin, need to be demanding that our funds are being used.”
Didier’s statements in his forum Wednesday with Newhouse, a Sunnyside farmer and former state legislator and agriculture director, differed from what he said in a 12-person League of Women Voters forum before the primary. In July, he called the budget “more than adequate,” and blasted the state Department of Ecology and federal Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency, the three members of the Tri-Party Agreement, which sets Hanford cleanup deadlines.
“It’s needed, we have 56 million gallons of high-level waste that we have yet to touch,” he said Wednesday at the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce forum. “We need to get that glassifcation plant finished.”
Hanford’s budget is big, but the site has big problems, Newhouse said. He will make the case to those in Washington, D.C., of the need for funding, if elected.
“The federal government made the mess, I believe the federal government needs to clean it up,” he said. “I will not be advocating cuts to the cleanup at Hanford, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do things as efficiently as possible.