Group plans to seek benefits for hosting Yucca dump
LAS VEGAS – A group of Nevada business, union and local officials plans to push the state to get economic benefits from the federal plan to store the nation’s most radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain.
The 16-member group wants the state to negotiate for tax benefits, research grants, highway funding, educational opportunities or other federal benefits if the Energy Department stores 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
“I think there was a definite time period when we shouldn’t have been in those negotiations, but I think that time has passed,” said Monte Miller, chief executive of KeyState Corporate Management in Las Vegas and a founder of the group calling itself “For A Better Nevada.”
Gov. Kenny Guinn, state Attorney General Brian Sandoval and Nevada’s congressional delegation are united against the planned repository. They say negotiating for benefits is not an option.
“I continue to believe that we need to prevent Yucca Mountain and I do not agree with attempts to negotiate with the federal government because there are no benefits the state could possibly reap from the site,” said Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev.
The state won one of several legal challenges against the Energy Department earlier this year, and plans to raise more objections when the department seeks a repository operating license application from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The group issued a news release Tuesday saying it is neither for nor against the Yucca repository, but will focus on “capturing any and all economic opportunities and benefits possible for Nevada.”
Chris Barrett, a Reno advertising consultant coordinating the group, told the Las Vegas Sun the group formed following debate in the 2003 Legislature about raising taxes. He said members decided waste storage in Nevada is inevitable and the state should organize to get benefits.
The announcement lists Nye, Lincoln and Esmeralda county and Caliente and Pahrump elected officials, a prominent Clark County auto dealer and casino owner, a Teamsters union executive, a southern Nevada real estate developer and an Elko businessman and several Northern Nevada and Reno residents and business owners.
Barrett told the Sun the group has no budget and is not affiliated with or funded by the Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington-based industry advocacy group.
Former Nevada Gov. Bob List, an Nuclear Energy Institute consultant, has been the highest-profile public official in the state to publicly favor the Yucca Mountain project.
“I certainly think it will be a little less lonely out there,” List said of the new group. “I think it’s a big step. We’d be foolish to let the opportunity pass us up.”
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., released results of a poll this month that they said showed 70 percent of state residents oppose the Yucca repository and 57 percent said the state should continue fighting it.
The poll also found 38 percent said Yucca “is inevitable and nothing can be done about it,” down 5 percentage points from a similar poll in January 2002.