96°F
weather icon Clear

Yucca Mountain advocate John Shimkus retiring from Congress

Updated August 31, 2019 - 10:09 am

WASHINGTON — A key congressional proponent of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada announced Friday that he would not seek reelection, becoming the latest Republican in the House to bow out before next year’s partisan battles.

In a statement released by his office, Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., called his service in Congress a “blessing” but a sacrifice by his wife and their sons.

“As Illinois candidates begin to circulate petitions next week, now is the time to announce that I will not be seeking reelection,” Shimkus said in the statement.

Shimkus is the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on environment and climate change. This year he pushed legislation to authorize funding to restart the licensing process to open Yucca Mountain after decades of stalemate.

As chairman of that subcommittee in the last Congress, Shimkus was an ardent proponent of the Trump administration’s proposal to bring nuclear waste from power plants across the country to the Nevada site that was designated in 1987 by Congress as the permanent repository for such waste.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., wished him well in future endeavors.

“While I certainly have had many battles over the years with Rep. Shimkus, I wish him the best in his retirement,” Titus told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

‘Not giving up’

Shimkus accused former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and former President Barack Obama of playing politics to shelve the Department of Energy’s application for a repository license before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has blocked development of the waste repository.

His staff continues to advocate for reversing the Obama administration’s decision to mothball the project and restarting licensing on the sole permanent nuclear waste repository designated by Congress.

“We’ll be here for the rest of his term. We are not giving up on that,” a Shimkus spokesman said.

Now in his 12th term, Shimkus, a former teacher, was elected with 71 percent of the vote in 2018.

“My family and I thank you for allowing us the honor to serve,” he said in the statement. “Our dedication to our country, our state, our church and our community will not waiver as we embark on the next chapter of life.”

Shimkus becomes the 12th Republican member of the House to retire or announce that they will not seek reelection in 2020. The 15th Congressional District of Illinois is considered a safe Republican seat.

There are three Democrats who have announced they will not seek re-election in the House.

Tenacious advocate

Shimkus has become a well-known name in Nevada for his tenacity on the issue of restarting licensing proceedings for Yucca Mountain, despite bipartisan opposition to storing nuclear waste just 90 miles north of Las Vegas.

The Illinois congressman told a House committee this year that failure to open Yucca Mountain was costing U.S. taxpayers $2 million a day and leaving nuclear waste stored at 121 sites in 39 states across the country.

Though there are nuclear power plants in Illinois, none are in Shimkus’ congressional district.

A recent House bill to appropriate funding to continue licensing on Yucca Mountain failed in the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Mark Amodei, a Republican and the only Nevada lawmaker on the panel, voted against a bipartisan amendment brought by Shimkus.

Titus and two other Nevada Democrats, Reps. Steven Horsford and Susie Lee, lobbied their party leaders and lawmakers on the committee to help defeat the spending bill by a narrow margin.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on energy, said this year that he would like the Senate to vote up or down on funding for a license to operate Yucca Mountain before he writes a spending bill.

Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, both Nevada Democrats, oppose funding for Yucca Mountain.

Though officials in Nye County, where Yucca Mountain is located, and other rural counties support the project, Gov. Steve Sisolak, the Nevada congressional delegation and the Nevada Legislature oppose the repository.

Tribal leaders, business leaders and conservation groups also have raised opposition to transporting and storing radioactive waste in an active seismic zone, near groundwater and close to a world tourist destination.

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
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
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.
THE LATEST
Democratic presidential candidates fire on Trump, Biden

The debate is shaped by evolving issues of race, gender, generation and ideology that again exploded into public view on the debate stage Thursday night.