U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján
WASHINGTON, D.C. ― Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM-03) sent a bi-partisan letter calling on the House Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing to examine the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).
Earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled, “Examining the Eligibility Requirements for the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program to Ensure all Downwinders Receive Coverage.” Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Tina Cordova with the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, and Jonathan Nez, Vice President of the Navajo Nation, all testified at the hearing. Unfortunately, the House Judiciary Committee has not scheduled a similar hearing.
Luján’s bi-partisan letter is co-signed by Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM-01), Steve Pearce (R-NM-02), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN-03) and Randy Weber (R-TX-14) and was sent to Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler.
Nearly 30 years ago, Congress passed RECA to provide compensation for atomic veterans and a limited number of others who contracted cancer as a direct result of their exposure to atmospheric nuclear testing. In 2000, Congress broadened the scope of the law to include additional individuals affected by radiation exposure. Since then, lawmakers have learned that many additional individuals who are sick or dying from radiation exposure are still unable to receive the compensation they deserve.
“The community that was ground zero for the detonation of the first atomic bomb has been left behind for decades. Our country must meet its obligation to all of the miners, workers, and downwinders who are still suffering from the impacts of uranium mining and nuclear testing during the Cold War,” Luján said. “These are real people who are hurting and need our help. I’ve even had Navajo elders travel to Washington, D.C. and ask Congress: ‘Are you waiting for us all to die to solve this problem?’ It’s time for the House of Representatives to listen to their stories.”
Calling for this hearing is part of Luján’s continued fight to ensure expanded compensation for individuals exposed to radiation while working in uranium mines or living downwind from atomic weapons tests.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives unanimously approved a sense of Congress offered by Luján that called on the U.S. government to compensate all the miners, workers, downwinders, and others suffering from the effects of uranium mining and nuclear testing carried out during the Cold War.
Luján has repeatedly introduced the RECA Amendments to address this failure by further widening qualifications for compensation for radiation exposure; qualifying post 1971 uranium workers for compensation; and expanding the downwind exposure area to include Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico, as well as any county in Arizona, Nevada, or Utah that has been shown to be impacted by downwind contamination.
Luján has previously called for a hearing on this legislation. He also personally met with Chairman Goodlatte to advocate for action on RECA.
The full text of the letter can be read below:
July 31, 2018
The Honorable Bob Goodlatte The Honorable Jerrold Nadler
Chairman Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building 2035 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Nadler:
We write to encourage you to hold a hearing to examine the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).
From 1945 to 1962, the United States conducted nearly 200 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests while building the arsenal that became the cornerstone of our nation’s Cold War security strategy. The mining and processing of uranium ore essential to the development of nuclear weapons was conducted by tens of thousands of workers until the mid-1970’s. In the years after the federal government ceased testing nuclear weapons and intensive mining of uranium ore, many individuals who worked in the uranium industry, lived near a mining operation, or lived downwind from the Nevada Test Site became sick or died because of exposure to unsafe levels of radiation from uranium.
To meet its responsibility to those Americans who sacrificed so much for our national security, Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) Oct. 5, 1990, and later broadened the scope of the Act’s coverage July 10, 2000. The current law offers compensation to individuals who contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases following their exposure to radiation released during above-ground atmospheric nuclear weapons tests or following their occupational exposure to radiation while employed in the uranium industry. However, we have since learned that there are many additional individuals who are sick or dying from radiation exposure that are unable to receive compensation through RECA.
Recently, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled, “Examining the Eligibility Requirements for the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program to Ensure all Downwinders Receive Coverage.” We encourage the House Judiciary Committee to hold a similar hearing to hear the stories of those who sacrificed for our national security during the Cold War.