Las Vegas Sun

August 19, 2017

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Sun Editorial:

Sandoval, legislators make Nevada proud with Yucca fight

Gov. Brian Sandoval has a polite, upbeat public persona — they don’t call him Governor Sunny for nothing — but he embodied Nevada’s gritty Battle Born nature during one portion of his State of the State address this month.

Sandoval’s strident remarks about Yucca Mountain were so good, they’re worth reprinting in their entirety:

“Regarding nuclear waste, let me make my position clear: For the remainder of my term I will vigorously fight the storage of high-level nuclear waste in Nevada.

“Any attempt to resurrect the ill-conceived Yucca Mountain project will be met with relentless opposition and maximum resources.

“Let’s face it, continuing down a path that seeks to force this unsafe and unwanted project on Nevada is a waste of time and money, and only gets the country farther away from solving its nuclear waste problem.”

Got it, Yucca supporters? To crib a line from the movie “Tombstone,” if you want a fight, Sandoval’s your huckleberry.

And as became clear only a few days later during a Senate confirmation hearing for Rick Perry, President Donald Trump’s pick for Energy secretary, there’s reason for Sandoval to be vigilant on the issue.

During the hearing, Perry was unclear on whether he’d continue to oppose sending waste to states that didn’t want it — a position he’d stated during a 2011 debate among Republican presidential candidates.

In that debate, Perry agreed with a comment by Mitt Romney that “the idea that 49 states can tell Nevada, ‘We want to give you our nuclear waste,’ doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

“You know, from time to time, Mitt and I don’t agree,” Perry said. “But on this one, he’s hit it, the nail, right on the head.”

Fast-forward to the Senate confirmation hearing, and Perry gave a different response when Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto reminded him about that comment.

“I made a statement about federalism, and I still believe in it strongly,” Perry replied. “I am very aware that this is an issue this country has been flummoxed by for 30 years. We have spent billions of dollars on this issue. ... I’ll work closely with you and the members of this committee to find the answers to this issue.”

What does that mean? Stay tuned, but it’s good that Sandoval went on record drawing a hard line on the issue before Perry went up for confirmation.

Another plus is that Sandoval is far from alone among state leaders who are fighting against Yucca. Cortez Masto, Rep. Dina Titus and first-year Reps. Ruben Kihuen and Jacky Rosen are opposing it from the Democratic side, and Sen. Dean Heller took an important step for Nevada in July when he issued a letter to some of his Senate colleagues saying the solution for waste storage “is not forcing that burden on Nevada, a state that has never had a nuclear power plant.”

He’s right, and so was Sandoval in describing how the vast majority of Nevadans feel about the project — that it’s unsafe and unwanted. He could have added that the millions of Americans living along the transportation lines for the waste that would be shipped to Yucca Mountain would feel the same way, but that’s all right.

Sandoval deserved the standing ovation he received for his State of the State remarks on the dump. What’s more, Nevadans need not be concerned that he’ll pull a Rick Perry-style flip-flop on the issue. Sandoval clearly has no affection for Trump, as evidenced by the fact he didn’t endorse the president or attend his inauguration.

So here’s a hand to the governor and all those who are fighting the good fight against Yucca.

If and when congressional lawmakers and the Trump administration try to jam radioactive waste down our throats, it’s reassuring to know they’ll have to go through a wall to do it.

Do you agree?

Let Nevada’s nuclear defenders know how you feel:

Gov. Brian Sandoval, 702-486-2500 (Las Vegas office), 775-684-5670 (State Capitol Building), gov.nv.gov/contact/email-the-governor/

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., 202-224-6244, heller.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact-form

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., 202-224-3542, cortezmasto.senate.gov/content/contact-senator

• Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., 202-225-5965, titus.house.gov/contact/email-me

Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., 202-225-3252, rosen.house.gov/contact

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., 202-225-9894, kihuen.house.gov/contact

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