Monday, March 22, 2010 | 4:31 p.m.
Days before an Obama administration-tapped panel holds its first meeting on alternatives to Yucca Mountain, a coalition, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is calling on Congress to reverse the president's proposed zeroing out of the proposed nuclear waste repository project's budget.
The groups also call on the Energy Department's new panel to include Yucca Mountain as part of its study of potential waste disposal options - an option the department has previously said it would keep off the table. The groups want the licensing process for Yucca Mountain to continue before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
"Canceling this program, without providing a bona fide alternative path forward remains unacceptable and troubling, particularly to defense and civilian waste communities, taxpayers and future generations who will bear the full burden of this action," the groups wrote.
The letter was sent to the leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees who are in the process of reviewing President Barack Obama's 2011 funding requests.
The groups want the funding upheld so the Yucca licensing process can continue. Obama earlier this year kept his campaign promise to Nevadans by directing his Energy Department to withdraw Yucca Mountain's license application, a death blow to the project.
Those signing the letter include the Chamber, the taxpayer watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste and at least two pro-Yucca groups in Nevada.
The Energy Department's 15-member panel is scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday to begin as its 18-month process of studying alternatives to Yucca Mountain. The panel is headed by Washington heavyweights Lee Hamilton, the former Congressman, and Brent Scrowcroft, the retired general and former national security official.
You can read the letter on the Chamber's blog here.