Negotiating with the federal government, a Nevada perspective
October 10, 2002
From the start, the problem in negotiating with the federal government over nuclear-waste storage at Yucca Mountain has been trust.
Bob Loux, director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, the state’s watchdog on the Yucca repository, reminded lawmakers of that obstacle this week.
While state officials long have fought the dump, there always has been a faction that argued Nevada should be trying to cut the best deal possible. If the outcome is inevitable, they argue, why not make the best of it?
It might not be a bad strategy, if Nevada had any leverage in the argument. But it doesn’t. The only leverage it will have is if the state’s hired guns can win some court battles, and that means fighting every step of the way.
Loux turned to New Mexico and the much-despised Waste Isolation Pilot Plant project east of Carlsbad for his example of broken promises by the U.S. Department of Energy.
“New Mexico’s relationship with DOE on WIPP is one that is characterized by broken promises, repeated failures to live up to commitments, even court-stipulated agreements, and political gamesmanship,” Loux said.
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But Nevada shouldn’t need many reminders of broken promises. The Yucca project itself is the most recent example, as the rules and regulations have twisted with the wind and the whims of the DOE. The next-most relevant example may be at the Nevada Test Site, where the depths and breadth of the government’s deception are still being discovered today.
And the oldest example in the state is also a current example, as the Western Shoshones still are waiting for the federal government to live up to the treaty its representatives signed in 1863.
We weren’t around then (the Nevada Appeal didn’t start publishing until 1865), but we suspect someone at the time said, “The tribe should negotiate the best deal possible.”
It didn’t help then. It wouldn’t help now.