Yucca Mountain Halted Again as GOP Aims to Retain Senate

Roll Call | 9/12/2018 | Jeremy Dillon
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Supporters of the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada face a familiar fate despite bipartisan momentum to restart progress on the site: Once again, their hopes appear dashed by a Silver State senator.

For years the Senate spoiler was the chamber’s top Democrat, Harry Reid, who departed in 2017. This year Republican Dean Heller played the role, a vocal opponent of the project who faces an uphill re-election bid in a state that went for Hillary Clinton and Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in 2016.

Outcome - Funding - House - Yucca - Process

The outcome: Funding backed by the House to restart the Yucca process was dropped in the conference agreement on the three-bill spending package that includes the fiscal 2019 Energy-Water title, unveiled Monday. It also means bipartisan House legislation to restart the project will likely linger untouched by the Senate this Congress.

Heller’s legislative win was not universally celebrated by GOP lawmakers. A top Yucca advocate pointed to Heller’s race as the reason for stripping out the funding.

Decade - Senator - Calculations - Policy - Priorities

“As we’ve allowed for a decade now, a single senator’s short-term political calculations again triumphed over long-term, bipartisan policy priorities,” Illinois Rep. John Shimkus said in a statement.

The blame and disappointment for that outcome, Shimkus said, fall on House GOP leadership for failing “to stand strong on the House position, as well as the president’s position, on funding in the appropriations process.”

Shimkus - Energy - Commerce - Environment - Subcommittee

Shimkus, who leads the Energy and Commerce Environment Subcommittee, sponsored the nuclear waste legislation passed by the House, 340-72, in May as part of a bipartisan compromise that aimed to end years of inaction on radioactive waste stored at nuclear power plants nationwide.

The bill would beef up the Department of Energy’s paused Yucca Mountain license application at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with needed federal land transfers and other elements, and authorized the creation of interim nuclear...
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