weather icon Clear

Nevada delegation wins one battle on nuclear waste funding

Updated May 21, 2019 - 3:59 pm

WASHINGTON — Nevada opponents of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain scored a victory Tuesday when a House committee turned away an attempt to put money behind an effort to restart the process of licensing the project.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 25-27 to shoot down the amendment by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, to add $74 million to the bill, less than the $116 million sought by the Trump administration to revive the hearings on the Energy Department’s application to build the repository. The overall bill appropriates $46.4 billion for various purposes.

The only Nevada lawmaker on the committee, Rep. Mark Amodei, a Republican, voted against the Simpson amendment and with Democrats who were muscled by House leaders to vote against Yucca Mountain funding.

“If you are just offering me an up-or-down vote on a nuclear landfill, I’m a no,” Amodei said, noting that the amendment did not include concessions for Nevada as did previous bills that gave the state oversight, research programs at state universities and a voice in routing the material.

Simpson pleaded with members on both sides of the political aisle to vote for the amendment, noting that many had nuclear powered generating plants in their states.

He said that with a vote against his amendment, “you are voting to keep nuclear waste in your districts.”

Behind the scenes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., twisted arms on the vote following a meeting two weeks ago with Nevada Democrats Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee.

The Nevada delegation also was aided by Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee.

Victory for Nevada

Nevada lawmakers claimed victory in a battle that will now move to the Senate.

“The latest attempt to force nuclear waste down Nevada’s throat has failed, and I won’t stop fighting until we put and end to Yucca Mountain once and for all,” Titus said.

Horsford called it a “victory for all Nevadans.”

“While we won today, the fight isn’t over,” Horsford said.

The Appropriations Committee and the full House voted overwhelmingly in the past Congress to revive licensing on the repository, only to see legislative efforts die in the Senate.

President Donald Trump had been seeking $116 million to restart licensing on the Department of Energy application to build facility, as well as to study interim storage at other sites, in his fiscal year 2020 budget, which begins Oct. 1.

Lowey, D-N.Y., and Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, who heads the energy and water subcommittee, were instrumental in crafting a compromise House and Senate spending bill for this fiscal year that provided financial assistance for communities with decommissioned nuclear power plants and stockpiled waste.

That bill, for fiscal year 2019, did not include money for Yucca Mountain.

As the appropriations process for 2020 began, Titus testified before Kaptur’s subcommittee in March against moving nuclear waste across the country and storing it at a site that could pose a risk of groundwater contamination.

The subcommittee also heard testimony from Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., who used the Energy Department’s 16-volume safety analysis and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety report to bolster his argument that the Nevada site would be a secure repository for nuclear waste.

Officials in Nye County, where Yucca Mountain is located, also support the building of a repository, as well as nuclear industry organizations, trade unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The state of Nevada, environmentalists, Las Vegas business leaders, state tribal officials and the gaming industry opposes storing the nation’s nuclear waste.

Gov. Steve Sisolak and state Attorney General Aaron Ford are directing a statewide effort to stop federal efforts to build Yucca Mountain in a state with a $40 billion tourism industry.

If licensing hearing resume, Nevada has 218 challenges to the application.

Big guns on Nevada’s side

Meanwhile, Titus, Horsford and Lee met with Pelosi this month seeking her help to stop funding for Yucca Mountain.

Pelosi apparently gave assurances she would help, according to a senior congressional aide familiar with the meeting.

After the subcommittee bill slashed funding, Titus said, “This fight is far from over, but I’m encouraged by the support on our side.”

Simpson’s amendment only included $74 million due to committee rules that require offsets, or cuts, in other parts of the bill, in order to put new spending into the legislation.

Opponents of Yucca Mountain faced steep odds before the vote. There are only five members of the 53 lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee who do not have spent fuel in their states.

And the House approved authorization legislation to jump-start Yucca Mountain hearings in the last Congress by a large bipartisan majority and a 340-72 vote.

Although that bill died after the last Congress for lack of Senate action, a new bipartisan version of the legislation was filed this month in the House, to be taken up later by the Energy and Commerce Committee.

In addition, two Senate bills have been filed that include Yucca Mountain as part of plans to address the growing stockpile of nuclear waste and a decades’ long impasse on building a repository in Nevada.

Congress designated Yucca Mountain in 1987 as the sole site for permanent nuclear storage.

Licensing hearings were defunded in 2012 by the Obama administration.

The Trump administration has requested funding to revive the hearings in each of its past three budget proposals.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Nevada corrections workers file for union recognition

Nevada corrections workers filed to be recognized as a union affiliated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the first group of state workers to take advantage of a new law that allows for collective bargaining.