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November 24, 2017

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Despite Nevada’s objections, Yucca legislation clears House subcommittee

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AP Photo/John Locher

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., left, looks around inside of Yucca Mountain during a congressional tour Thursday, April 9, 2015, near Mercury, Nev. Several members of congress toured the proposed radioactive wast dump 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Congress is moving forward with legislation tied to the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment decided Thursday to approve the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, sending it to the full committee.

“Nuclear waste management policy is not a partisan issue and there is an urgent need for Congress to address this challenge as taxpayer liability continues to skyrocket due to the federal government’s obligations,” said Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill. “This committee has received testimony from scores of expert witnesses about challenges associated with managing spent nuclear fuel.”

The bill would preempt state air quality permits and requirements, according to a list of concerns from Robert J. Halstead, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects. He said 10 main concerns were outlined and sent to congressional delegation staff Wednesday night based on a review of the bill by the agency’s legal team.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said the state intends to fight this legislation, along with a Texas lawsuit filed against the federal government that seeks to force progress on the Yucca Mountain project.

“We’re going to defend and protect the state at every opportunity,” he said Thursday.

The state is “counting on our federal delegation to do everything they can to stop it,” Sandoval said of the federal legislation.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said in a statement Thursday that work will continue to try to keep the legislation from progressing.

“It’s deeply disappointing that my colleagues on the Hill continue to ignore the concerns and requests of the very people who would be directly impacted by this legislation,” she said.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said Tuesday that the “legislation usurps the state’s water rights, removes the cap on the amount of waste originally allowed at the proposed Yucca Mountain facility, ignores the majority of Nevadans who do not want a repository in our state, and overlooks the 329 congressional districts that would be along the waste’s shipping route. This is another show of hostility toward Nevada by Republicans who want to shove this dangerous project down our throats. It’s bad science and worse policy.”

The state has maintained its opposition to the project, but some communities, including Nye County where Yucca Mountain is located, say they want the licensing process to go forward.

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