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Rocky Flats plutonium a hot topic at State Capitol

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Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it -- and maybe inhale it, too.

Before he became a state representative, rancher Wes McKinley was the foreman of the Rocky Flats grand jury, empaneled in 1989 to consider allegations of environmental crimes at the former nuclear weapons plant. So you can understand why he gets a little heated when he explains why lawmakers should pass HB 1127, which would require the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to tell the history of the place before people venture into what's soon to be opened to the public as the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

Wash your hands after you play in the plutonium, kids!

Before the House State Affairs Committee listened to testimony on the proposal yesterday, McKinley and Jon Lipsky, the former FBI agent who led the June 1989 raid on Rocky Flats, stood on the steps of the Capitol to warn the public about the dangers of forgetting the past -- or never being privy to what happened in the past. Because while Rocky Flats went through a massive environmental clean-up, some of the dangers there have never been revealed publicly.

"I came to let you know that there are things that are being withheld," said Lipsky, who co-authored The Bushwhacked Grand Jury with McKinley. The book describes how the Department of Justice cut a deal with Rockwell International, which ran Rocky Flats, rather than indict eight individuals for alleged environmental crimes, as the grand jurors had requested.

Having been trumped by the feds before, McKinley plans to put up a fight this time on behalf of Colorado. "We do have a right to put up the signs, because we have concurrent jurisdiction," he said. "If they said no, we'd have one heck of a fight. "

The committee is slated to vote on McKinley's proposal tomorrow.

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