Former Idaho Governor Phil Batt, a Republican known for signing an agreement with the federal government to remove nuclear waste from his state, died Saturday at his home. He was 96 years old.
In a statement announcing Batt’s death, Governor Brad Little called him “the epitome of a public servant.”
“His legacy is distinguished by his relentless leadership on human rights, his determined fiscal conservatism and his enduring love of Idaho,” Little said of Batt, who served one term as governor of Idaho. 1995 to 1999.
Philip Eugene Batt was born on a small farm several miles from Wilder, a farming town in southwestern Idaho. After graduating from high school there, he served in the United States Army during World War II. An onion farmer, he entered politics when he was elected to the Idaho State House in 1965 and served in the State House of Representatives and Senate for the next 18 years.
At a 2019 event honoring Batt, Butch Otter, also a former governor of Idaho, called him “a rare leader who transcends political ideology”.
As a lawmaker, Batt pushed to create a state human rights commission, an accomplishment that became more notable when white supremacist groups made northern Idaho a hotbed of anti-terrorist activity. hate groups in the 1980s and 1990s.
Batt also supported laws guaranteeing a minimum wage for farmworkers and, as governor, covering Hispanic farmworkers under Idaho’s workers’ compensation program; a position that puts him at odds with many players in the agricultural industry from which he hails and which dominates the landscape of the state.
“He was right, we were wrong,” said Lieutenant Governor Scott Bedke, a southern Idaho rancher whom Batt once appointed to a land management commission. said Idaho statesman.
“A man of fairness and decency, Governor Batt has served our community with a commitment to protecting our lands, fighting for human rights and ensuring fiscal accountability,” Bedke said in a statement.
Batt was elected Idaho’s first Republican governor in 28 years in 1994, ushering in a sea change in state politics, preceding three other Republican governors and no Democrats.
His most enduring legacy as governor is a 1995 agreement with the federal government on the planned removal of spent fuel and nuclear waste from the Idaho National Laboratory. The presence of environmentally hazardous nuclear waste has been the subject of lawsuits and political debate in Idaho since the intensification of operations during the 20th century. The lab sits atop an aquifer west of Idaho Falls that serves half the state’s population and millions of acres of irrigated farmland.
What became known as the Batt agreement allowed the Department of Energy to temporarily store spent fuel and required it to withdraw waste by 2035, with a few exceptions. Although the agreement has been amended several times and has triggered a recall effort and a ballot initiative aimed at its repeal, it remains indeed and is now generally considered to be preventing Idaho from becoming a high-level nuclear waste dump.
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo said in a statement that Batt’s “longtime friendship and mentorship to me has helped guide my professional and personal life.”
“Idaho Governor Phil Batt will be remembered as a strong and thoughtful leader who was dedicated to the people of Idaho and advancing human rights in the state,” Crapo said.
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