Owens Advocates for Extending RECA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Burgess Owens (UT-04) delivered the following statement, as prepared for delivery, on the House Floor in support of the RECA Extension Act of 2022, bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) to extend the authorization for the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.

“S. 4119 is a clean and simple extension of the existing Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. It represents an incredible and increasingly rare achievement here in Congress: a bipartisan solution to a nonpartisan problem.

“Between 1945 and 1962, the US conducted over 100 above-ground nuclear weapons tests (and nearly 1,000 underground tests) releasing harmful radioactive material into the air and (literally) blanketing parts of the United States–including Utah–with poisonous dust.

“RECA, championed by the late Senator Orrin Hatch, was a lifeline for thousands of downwinders, whose lives were lost or forever changed because of this exposure. Unless Congress acts, the program will expire in two months.

“That would leave Downwinders like Sara Penny of Cedar City, Utah, behind. Her story was cataloged in the “Downwinders of Utah” Archive.

“Penny was born in 1953 – the same year the ‘Dirty Harry’ bomb was tested in Nevada. She says, and I quote: “We knew we could die any day from about 5th grade. Our piano teacher’s daughter died of leukemia. A steady stream of deaths followed. Her grandfather died of leukemia. Her aunt died of breast cancer. Her cousin had a bone marrow transplant from his brother but died anyway. Her high school classmate died early from a brain tumor. Her cousin got breast cancer.”

“Her story is tragic. But it’s not unique. Too many Downwinders are still suffering. Just last week, I heard from constituents who were starting the process of applying for RECA benefits—individuals who lived in the shadow of radiation released into our beautiful western skies.

“We have the chance to make right what the federal government got wrong when it conducted these nuclear tests in our backyard. We can’t just walk away from RECA.

“For Sara Penny and all Downwinders, please join me in voting YES on S. 4119, the RECA Extension Act of 2022.

“Thank you, and I yield back.”

Watch the full remarks here.


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