Rep. Greg Stanton’s bill to extend justice to Downwinders in lower Mohave County was advanced yesterday by the House Judiciary Committee with a bipartisan vote.
Stanton’s bill, H.R. 612, the Downwinders Parity Act of 2021, would update the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include all of Mohave County, Arizona and Clark County, Nevada as affected areas, allowing victims of radiation exposure from those communities who became sick with cancer to receive compensation from the federal government.
Although a version of the legislation has been introduced in each Congress since 2010—first by Sen. John McCain and Rep. Trent Franks—the bill had not earned a committee hearing or vote in either the House or Senate until Stanton aggressively pushed for the effort to move forward.
“For far too long, northwestern Arizonans have been victimized and forgotten by the federal government,” said Stanton. “Congress has the opportunity, and the responsibility, to deliver justice—but time is running out.”
"It's illogical to deny RECA coverage to the 2 counties closest to the atomic blasts! I am hopeful this will be the turning point in the long pursuit for justice for Mohave and Clark counties. The deadly consequences of the nuclear arms race should not and cannot be swept under the rug,” said Jean Bishop, Mohave County Supervisor, District 4. Jean believes she and her family were exposed while living in Las Vegas during the testing in the 1950s, as well as in Mohave County during the mid-1950s to 1960s.
"Since 1990, partial restitution has been available for certain eligible individuals under the RECA. While the program has provided tens of thousands of well-deserving individuals with compensation, other equally-deserving citizens of Clark and Mohave counties have been shut out of the program. The Downwinders Parity Act of 2021 will right the wrongs that ripple through the communities in these counties that have been tragically impacted by our government's nuclear program,” said Laura Taylor, an attorney in Prescott who has been processing claims through the Radiation Exposure Compensation Program for the past 18 years for those individuals who are eligible for compensation.
Stanton has fought for this expansion throughout his two terms in Congress, introducing similar legislation last term and pushing the solution as an amendment in the 2021 and 2022 National Defense Authorization Acts.
In March, at Stanton’s urging, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the impacts of radiation exposure for Downwinders––the first time in two decades that victims in the Southwest were given an opportunity to speak before a House committee on the urgent need for justice for their communities.
Video of Stanton’s remarks during the Judiciary Committee’s markup of the bill is available HERE.
The bill now heads to the full House for consideration.
The United States government conducted nearly 200 atmospheric weapons development tests as part of Cold War security from 1945 to 1962—an era when other nations also engaged in nuclear weapons testing and proliferation. These tests exposed thousands of Americans to cancer-causing ionized radiation from nuclear fallout.
When the injuries were discovered, Congress attempted to make amends on behalf of the nation by passing the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to establish a trust fund for partial restitution to individuals who have contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases that can be directly attributed to the radiation exposure from the nuclear weapons testing.
Unfortunately, that bill included serious boundary flaws that have prevented otherwise eligible Arizonans from receiving justice and the compensation to which they are entitled. Americans that reside in counties in close proximity to where the testing occurred are excluded from this program for no logical scientific reason, specifically residents in Mohave County, Arizona and Clark County, Nevada.
The serious effects of exposure to low doses of radiation can be unpredictable, but incredibly harmful. There’s a higher tendency among Downwinders to develop certain cancers including Leukemia, Multiple Myeloma, Lymphomas and many more. RECA covers 19 compensable diseases.