Lawmakers approve $1.6 million for battle to block Yucca nuclear dump | NevadaAppeal.com

Lawmakers approve $1.6 million for battle to block Yucca nuclear dump

Nevada legislators on Monday approved $1.6 million to continue the battle to block the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump project.

Of that, $1 million was to make up money the federal government cut from Nevada’s requested Yucca Mountain budget.

Nuclear Projects Director Bob Loux said he made the request “regretfully.”

“We did not see what has been recommended historically in fiscal 2004,” he told the Interim Finance Committee, which makes funding decisions between legislative sessions.

The state has normally received $2.5 million but this year was cut to $1 million for Yucca Mountain funding. Loux said the reduction comes at a bad time because it could limit the state’s ability to fight proceedings designed to license the nuclear waste dump 75 miles north of Las Vegas.

The most critical deadline, he said, involves entering the state’s evidence – upward of 1 million documents – into a computer database set up to handle the licensing procedure. He said Nevada must do that within 90 days of the Department of Energy filing or forfeit rights to participate in the process.

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He said that will take up to $160,000. Most of the rest is for legal fees.

Loux said the big question at this point is whether the Energy Department can legally file its license application. He pointed out the court of appeals has thrown out health and safety standards proposed by the Department of Energy, and the state’s position is it can’t seek a license without those standards. That issue may, like others in the process, end up in court.

He said the Department of Energy may file the application and ask that the process begin while it begins developing new health and safety standards. He said Nevada believes that would be illegal – in effect “putting the cart before the horse.”

In addition, IFC approved $650,000 to cover litigation expenses in the Attorney General’s Office for cases in the works.

Committee members also approved $1 million from the state contingency fund to remove dangerous tiles from the exterior of the Grant Sawyer state office building in Las Vegas.

Those 6-by-6-inch tiles have been falling off, and the state is suing contractors involved in the project. But lawyers and the Public Works Board have recommended the state immediately begin removing the tiles to make sure no one is injured by falling tiles.

Lawmakers approved the $1 million but refused permission for Public Works to take another $1.25 million out of a Clear Creek improvements budget, saying the agency could come back for more money to continue the tile work during the regular 2005 legislative session.

Committee members approved $507,533 to cover fees charged the Department of Motor Vehicles by credit card companies. The credit card program has been more successful than DMV officials expected, but there is no mechanism in state law to charge the customers for card company fees or to cover those costs out of registration fees.

DMV Director Ginny Lewis said the agency is hoping to present legislation this next session to handle the situation.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at nevadaappeal@sbcglobal.net or at 687-8750.