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‘Buried here only over my dead body’

It’s hard to find Nevada residents who still think Yucca Mountain is the biggest issue in the state, but this election year might just put it back on the map.

After all, Sen. John McCain is solidly behind the proposed nuclear waste dump, even though he sometimes wears an environmentalist hat and at other times a fiscal conservative hat.

Yucca Mountain could be a huge environmental disaster — and it’s already cost enough billions of dollars to actually deserve the honor of federal government boondoggle.

But the recent passing of environmental lawyer Joe Egan pushed Yucca Mountain to the forefront again in my mind.

Egan wasn’t just the state’s best face against attempts to shove nuclear waste upon Nevada, he was one of those good guys who used his unbelievable knowledge to push hard against nuclear proliferation and win so many battles for the little guy.

Nevada has always been the little guy in the fight against Yucca — a prolonged war waged by Democrats and Republicans alike, all in the name of “sound science.”

Egan helped defend us with his own in-depth training in the field. He had a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s in nuclear engineering, technology and policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then graduated with honors from Columbia University Law School and launched his own law firm devoted exclusively to nuclear environmental law.

While so many Nevada politicians would publicly stand up against Yucca Mountain, there were times when the public’s eye was turned away that they would denounce the project not over safety concerns, but because they felt it helped them politically.

Even before Bill Clinton vetoed interim nuclear storage or before George W. Bush and Al Gore both parsed the “sound science” promises, Egan was on our side. Before John Kerry made a 30-second television commercial solely about Yucca Mountain, Egan was uncovering scathing e-mails and shoddy science within the Department of Energy.

Egan was our face at the Federal Court of Appeals and was one of the reasons the little guy was gaining the upper hand.

The formidable mind who was our truest outside believer lost his battle with cancer. His ashes are to be spread at Yucca Mountain with a simple message: “Radioactive waste buried here only over my dead body.”

Egan won’t see the day Nevada finally wins the fight against Yucca, either politically or in the courts. But we all owe him a proper resting place where his epitaph never rings true.

Thank you, Joe. Rest in peace, neighbor.

— — —

Erin Bilbray-Kohn is one of the many unsung heroes who gives her all for the Democratic Party. The daughter of former Rep. Jim Bilbray is a real roll-up-the-sleeves gal.

This year alone, she organized the massive Clark County Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, which went from nothing to featuring all Democratic presidential candidates in fewer than 30 days.

She also provided communication services pro bono during the fiasco that was the Clark County Democratic Party Convention, all the while trying to keep the spin positive and with a bit of humor.

Bilbray-Kohn may be family in this state’s Democratic Party, but she doesn’t just come for the holidays. She’s founded and nurtured the group Emerge Nevada, a political leadership training group for Democratic women.

She holds workshops and raises money with the best of them. On that note, “What could be better than women, politics and chocolate?” It’s the question posed on her latest event invitation — a fundraiser at the Chocolate Bar in Reno on Friday, just before the state convention.

But Bilbray-Kohn is also raising a farm team of potential female candidates who should be emerging on the scene.

What better way to kick one up to the majors than by making Bilbray-Kohn Nevada’s national committeewoman.

Bilbray-Kohn will run for the position this weekend. Current national committeewoman Dina Titus is running for Congress and is not seeking another term.

State Sen. Maggie Carlton has also signaled her intent to run.

Here’s hoping state delegates give Bilbray-Kohn a look this weekend. It may be a few years until we see the impact of her farm team, but she’s as ready as any of her future candidates.

— — —

My colleague John L. Smith sarcastically suggested the Governor’s Mansion could be rented to pull in some money for the sagging state treasury.

I don’t necessarily disagree, but I’d market it as the Carson City Circus, complete with the freak lady holed up in the master bedroom suite.

Sure, the first lady has raised awareness about methamphetamine, but when Nevada voters picked Jim Gibbons, they weren’t envisioning Bill-Hill on Mountain Street.

It may be her greatest leverage in the divorce, but this sideshow is being presented on the taxpayers’ dime. The governor may have made his bed, but the one he needs to sleep in is in the mansion.

Contact Erin Neff at eneff@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2906.

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