WASHINGTON — Gov. Jim Gibbons charged Wednesday that he was snubbed by a U.S. Senate committee inviting witnesses to testify next week at a hearing on Yucca Mountain.
The Democratic-controlled panel passed over the Republican governor, according to his aides and other sources in Washington. Instead, Catherine Cortez Masto, the attorney general and a Democrat, was invited to present the state’s views on the nuclear waste repository at the Oct. 31 hearing.
"I was deeply concerned that I have not been invited to testify on behalf of the people of Nevada," Gibbons said in a letter sent Wednesday to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
"For Nevada, the fight against Yucca Mountain has always been a bipartisan one," Gibbons wrote.
Neither Boxer nor committee aides could be reached on Wednesday night.
Gibbons aides in the past week called staffers for Boxer and for Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., expressing interest in having the governor testify at the hearing, which falls on Nevada’s statehood anniversary, according to Melissa Subbotin, Gibbons spokeswoman.
"There is absolutely no reason why Governor Gibbons should not have been asked to participate in the hearing," Subbotin said. "He has remained at the forefront of the fight against the Yucca Mountain Project."
Reid suggested participants to Boxer and believed that Cortez Masto would be a strong witness, his spokesman Jon Summers said.
The hearing will focus on upcoming repository license issues and Nevada’s ongoing legal fights against the project, Summers said, so "it was thought (Cortez Masto) would be an appropriate pick" as the state’s chief attorney.
Summers insisted there was no partisan motive to invite Cortez Masto and not Gibbons. He noted Sen. John Ensign will take part as a Nevada Republican elected statewide.
Gibbons could have been invited by Republican senators if they chose, Summers added.
The Yucca Mountain hearing has gained an elevated profile as the first one on the topic sponsored by Senate Democrats since they took control of the Senate this year.
Among the senators expected to participate is Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who has said she would kill the project if elected president.
Politics is threatening to overtake the hearing, said Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev.
"This is just disappointing and a slap in the face to Nevadans not to invite the governor who has fought against Yucca Mountain his whole career," Porter said.
"It appears to me this is a dog and pony show," Porter said. "This is not about personalities, it is about the future of our state."
The witness list has not been made public yet but it is said to include Reid, Ensign, Cortez Masto, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., representatives from the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency, the head of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, and an environmental spokesman.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau chief Steve Tetreault at STetreault@ stephensmedia.com or (202) 783-1760.More about Yucca Mountain