87°F
weather icon Clear

Nevada lawmakers take steps to block Yucca Mountain

WASHINGTON — Nevada lawmakers will fire the first shot Tuesday in the expected legislative battle over Yucca Mountain in the new Congress.

The state’s representatives and senators said Monday they are filing bills in the House and Senate that would require states, local governments and tribes to consent to housing a nuclear waste repository before the federal government could build a storage facility.

“We want to be proactive, not defensive,” said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., who has filed similar bills in previous sessions of Congress going back to joint efforts with then-Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The organized effort by Nevada’s congressional delegation comes ahead of an expected push by the Trump administration and Congress to revive the licensing process to build a repository at Yucca Mountain as part of a national plan to address the growing stockpile of waste at power plants.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Sen. Jacky Rosen, both Democrats, were filing The Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act in the Senate.

“It’s to set our marker and show that as a delegation we are united,” Cortez Masto said during an interview at her Senate office.

Titus said via telephone from Las Vegas that she is filing the bill in the House, where it has struggled in the past, but noted that this would be the first since Democrats took control. She also said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has always opposed Yucca Mountain.

Nevada Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, both Democrats, signed on to the Titus bill as co-sponsors. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., who represents northern counties, is not a co-sponsor.

‘We mean business’

The Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act would require the consent of the governor, local governments and affected local tribes before money from the Nuclear Waste Fund could be used to build a storage facility in a state.

Rosen said she plans to use the bill to educate senators about what’s at stake with the development of Yucca Mountain, which is near the Nellis Air Force Range and the Nevada Test Site, where munitions training is conducted.

“We are going to use every tool in our toolbox,” Rosen said, adding, “We want everyone to know that we mean business.”

The bills are expected to face stiff headwinds in both the House and Senate from lawmakers who represent states and cities where nuclear power plants are located and waste is being stockpiled until the government opens a facility to store the radioactive materials.

Titus said including interim storage sites in the bill language would help draw more supporters to the consent legislation.

Congress designated Yucca Mountain as the site for the nation’s permanent storage of nuclear waste in 1987. Since, $19 billion has been spent to study and research the site, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, but political opposition has delayed construction of the facility.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on energy, said he wants to end the 30-year impasse and address the nuclear waste storage issue.

Alexander has proposed using interim storage sites until a permanent repository can be built. He has also underscored that he believes Yucca Mountain is part of the solution to addressing nuclear waste storage.

Cortez Masto and Rosen said they need to educate senators that the site is not safe, and that the $19 billion spent so far “is a boondoggle.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has been enlisted to help Nevada stave off attempts to develop the Yucca Mountain site, Cortez Masto said.

A moral imperative

The Trump administration has included $160 million in the past two budgets to revive licensing hearings on the Department of Energy’s application to build a repository at Yucca Mountain.

It is expected that the president will include funding for that purpose in his upcoming budget for fiscal year 2020, which begins Oct. 1.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry told Congress in 2016 that it is a moral imperative to address the stockpile of waste and power plants.

Perry is expected to join six senators and DOE on a rescheduled tour of the Yucca Mountain site. Alexander postponed a tour last month when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee, had a scheduling conflict.

Cortez Masto and Rosen were invited to tour the site with Perry, Alexander, Feinstein, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.

Feinstein has voiced concern about DOE studies and analysis of the Yucca Mountain site, but represents a state with the closed San Onofre Nuclear Generating System and its 4,000 tons of radioactive waste.

Recent Trump administration efforts and House legislation to jump-start the licensing process for the Yucca Mountain project have died in the Senate.

But Democrats on a bipartisan, bicameral conference committee that crafted the most recent spending bill succeeded in halting a last-minute effort to insert language to restart the process, giving Titus encouragement for her legislation in the new Congress.

A blue ribbon commission

The bill filed by Nevada lawmakers is based on the 2012 recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Future that calls for a consent-based process for siting facilities for nuclear waste storage and disposal.

An open process ensures that states have a voice in the process and that no state will be forced to accept nuclear waste against its own will, according to the bills. The process also would instill confidence, trust and transparency, the bills state.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission began hearings on DOE’s license to build the Yucca Mountain facility in 2008.

But the process was stalled when the Obama administration withdrew funding for the project at the behest of former Senate Majority Leader Reid.

Nye County, where Yucca Mountain is located, and other rural counties in the state support continuation of the licensing process, to determine if the site is safe. Supporters note the potential for good-paying jobs and tax revenues for schools.

Amodei has supported the licensing process, but has opposed other transportation issues with developing Yucca Mountain.

The state of Nevada has 218 challenges, or contentions, to the DOE license application, most dealing with safety and possible contamination of groundwater.

The Western Shoshone Nation considers the land sacred.

Las Vegas business leaders, the gaming industry, environmental groups and Republican and Democratic political officials oppose storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain and transporting waste through population centers, including Las Vegas and Reno.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-622-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
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.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Jurors hear opening statements in Reid personal injury trial
Opening statements were made on Tuesday in the product liability lawsuit brought by Harry Reid against against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Mayor Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels
Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors on March 26, 2019.
Las Vegas City Council Ward 1 race
Candidates for Las Vegas City Council Ward 1. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O’Rourke campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke addresses attendees during a campaign stop at Arandas Taqueria in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 24, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O'Rourke House Party in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke delivered a message of unity inside a Las Vegas living room Saturday night, outlining a mission to bridge the divide in a polarized America and rally behind “big defining ambitions that we have in common.” (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks at Atomic Liquors
Democrat presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks to her supporters at Atomic Liquors.
Presidential candidate Gillibrand meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys at her first stop in Nevada as a candidate Thursday, March 21, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto promotes the Rebuild America’s Schools Act
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., co-sponsor of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, speaks at Hoggard Elementary School in Las Vegas to promote the bill that would provide $100 billion for infrastructure improvements at schools across the country. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Scholar Max Eden on how restorative justice decreases student achievement - VIDEO
Across the country, restorative justice is lowering test scores and increasing the number of students who feel unsafe at schools. That’s according to Max Eden, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, who recently released a study discipline reform.
NV Dems Want To Gut Read By Three - Video
Nevada’s students have a major problem. They aren’t very good at reading. In 2017, just 31 percent of fourth graders were proficient at reading according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. The number proficient falls to 28 percent in eighth grade. Read by Three could change that. If a student can’t read at grade level by the end of third grade, he repeats the grade.
Presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard stumps in Las Vegas
Presidential hopeful U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, holds a meet and greet at the Asian Culture Center in downtown Las Vegas Monday, March 18, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
THE LATEST
Sisolak signs public records reform bill into law

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill that strengthens Nevada’s public records law, making it easier and cheaper for people to get public records and providing for fines if public agencies willfully flout the law.

Nevada urged to OK $25M settlement in 2016 Reno-area fire

Nevada’s attorney general is recommending approval of a $25 million settlement with homeowners and others who sought more than $300 million in damages after fire destroyed 24 homes.