Janice Ayres: Political football at Yucca Mountain
May 15, 2012
Well, I see that Yucca Mountain is the newest political football for the upcoming presidential election. Two Republican federal court judges are now leaning toward a decision that President Barack Obama had no right to cease proceedings to make Yucca Mountain, 90 miles from Las Vegas, the dump for other states’ nuclear waste.
The main supporters of the dump to be in Nevada are from the state of Washington, and they have urged a federal appeals court to force the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to move forward on a licensing plan for Yucca Mountain.
Republican Judges Brett Kavanaugh and Raymond Randolph said that the NRC can’t shift power from Congress to the executive branch. The ruling came after testimony from Andy Fitz, a lawyer for the Washington state attorney general’s office, who said that the NRC violated a 1982 law requiring it to act on an application for construction of Nevada’s Yucca Mountain site.
Never mind that it is only 90 miles from Las Vegas and located on an earthquake fault. Can you picture a state like New York transporting its nuclear waste all the way across the country and having an incident? Can’t you just hear the screaming if the NRC decided that Washington state would be the ideal repository rather than Nevada? Boy, would you hear a different argument from Fitz then.
The judges, siding with Fitz, told the NRC they needed to explain how they could ignore the statute requiring action on Yucca Mountain just because Obama’s administration canceled the project in 2009.
Charles Mullins, a senior NRC attorney, replied that the project was canceled and that Congress itself did not appropriate funds in the current budget year, so the project is considered stopped. The opinion of federal appellate Judge Merick Garlando, a Democrat, is that the failure of Congress to appropriate funding for the project this year is their way of telling us that they also don’t want it, not just the executive branch. Still, the Republican judges argued that the project could be funded next time around because no one can second-guess Congress. And so it goes.
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Washington and South Carolina are among those that have filed a lawsuit seeking to force the NRC to rule on the Yucca Mountain application, for which a decision is expected this year. Isn’t it strange that although this has been a huge issue for a long time, it is only now (presidential election) being turned into a lawsuit that charges the Obama administration with wrongdoing? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been the key player in stopping the Yucca Mountain project. However, Nevada’s entire congressional delegation has been opposed to Yucca Mountain.
There are arguments that Nevada should welcome the dump as it can be recycled and bring in money and jobs and – oh yes – nuclear waste. Well, if it’s so great, why aren’t other states bidding for it? States such as Washington and South Carolina are saying “not in my backyard.”
I’m just happy that our congressional delegation and the Obama administration are on the same page. We don’t need the country’s nuclear waste sitting 90 miles from Las Vegas on an earthquake fault.
We are a wonderful, beautiful state with great people living here, and politics be damned. Stay tuned!
• Janice Ayres is immediate past president of the Nevada Senior Corps Association.