U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) and U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) applauded the House passage Wednesday of a two-year extension of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The extension cleared the U.S. Senate with unanimous support last week. Without reauthorization, the RECA program is scheduled to sunset in July.
Last week, Rep. Leger Fernández and Rep. Burgess Owens led a bipartisan letter to Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, Minority Leader McCarthy, and Minority Whip Scalise. In the letter, the representatives urged leadership to bring S. 4119, the RECA Extension Act of 2022 to the House Floor for a vote as expeditiously as possible.
Last year, Rep. Leger Fernández introduced H.R. 5338, the RECA Amendments of 2021. H.R. 5338 would expand eligibility under RECA to include downwinders from New Mexico and other states as well as post-71 uranium miners. The House Judiciary Committee passed the legislation with bipartisan support in December. Rep. Leger Fernández continues to push for enactment of this legislation to ensure just compensation for all affected New Mexicans.
“In 1945, the United States exploded the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Site in New Mexico,” Rep. Leger Fernández said. “Over the next 48 years, the U.S. conducted more than 200 above-ground nuclear tests. As a result, many communities around the test sites currently suffer from lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, and other serious diseases. Unfortunately, decades later, many New Mexicans continue to fall ill due to radiation exposure. This two-year extension of RECA is a step in the right direction to secure a long-term extension and expansion of benefits and eligibility, but we have more work to do; we can’t turn our backs on our communities.”
“This two-year extension of RECA is a victory for radiation exposure victims in New Mexico and it gives Congress the necessary time to act on a long-term extension and expansion of benefits and eligibility,” Luján said. “The continued bipartisan backing for this critical issue shows Congress’ commitment to addressing the racial and environmental injustice exposed by the legacy of nuclear weapons testing in the American West. After President Biden signs this extension into law, I will continue to build support for strengthening the current RECA program to include all affected downwinders and individuals who worked with uranium ore after 1971. Though the federal government cannot undo the heartbreak and loss caused by radiation exposure, it can and should take the appropriate steps to fairly compensate victims and their families.”
Rep. Leger Fernández and Sen. Luján will continue pushing for passage of their bipartisan legislation, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, to strengthen the program and compensate individuals exposed to radiation while working in uranium mines or living downwind from atomic weapons tests.