Las Vegas Sun

August 24, 2019

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Where I Stand:

Nevada needs Heller to just say no to Yucca Mountain

It is 2018, and we shouldn’t be talking about Yucca Mountain.

But, here we are, decades after Nevada’s nuclear nightmare first started invading our waking and sleeping moments, fighting again for our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I realize there are many new as well as younger residents of Southern Nevada who may not be familiar with the federal government’s efforts to bury the nation’s high-level radioactive waste just 90 miles from Las Vegas. For those of us who have been fighting against the feds’ desire — led mostly by nuclear power company advocates in the GOP-controlled Congress — to shove the country’s deadly garbage down Nevada’s throat, it is unfortunately business as usual to continue the fight against this madness.

When Nevada had a long line of governors, an overwhelming number of residents and a unanimously focused congressional delegation — led by now-retired Sen. Harry Reid — fighting against the Republicans’ repeated efforts to open Yucca Mountain as payment for their nuclear industry supporters was just a matter of course. Our tourism industry and the health and welfare of every resident in the southern part of the state was at stake, and failure was not an option.

Today, circumstances have changed. President Donald Trump is supporting the dump proponents. Our once-united congressional delegation has a Northern member who does not oppose the effort to potentially ruin the Las Vegas tourist economy. That delegation no longer carries the clout that Reid once possessed. And the tourist industry is not as vocal in its opposition — including Trump’s most significant financial donor, Sheldon Adelson, whose opposition could end the matter overnight.

And, finally, it is time for the next generation to take up the challenge of Yucca Mountain because, as young people understand so well, Yucca is like the zombies in their movies: It just won’t stay dead!

The good news is that there is a way forward. There is a way to protect the health and welfare of Nevadans and the economic stability of our major industry — tourism.

Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., introduced a bill in Congress this past week aimed at stopping the Trump administration from pursuing its Yucca Mountain agenda until such time as the government can come up with alternatives to the 19th-century solution of burying our problems in a hole.

As much as I admire Rosen’s determination to protect the people of Nevada and her willingness to fight with all she has against the Republican effort to force Nevadans to shoulder the burden for the rest of the country, the fact is her chances of success in the minority party in the House are quite slim.

That doesn’t mean she shouldn’t fight. Rosen is tough and smart and will not take no for the answer to Nevada’s desire to live free from the ravages of a radioactive future.

But she needs some help. And I know from where it should come. Ironically, the one person who can save Nevada from this nuclear nightmare is the man Rosen is running against for the Senate: Dean Heller.

Sen. Heller knows exactly what to do to put an end to this nuclear nonsense. He was shown the way by a courageous Republican senator from Colorado, Cory Gardner, who did not like the federal government trampling over his state’s right to regulate the marijuana industry.

So Sen. Gardner did what former first lady Nancy Reagan implored all of us to do when dealing with drugs. He just said no.

Gardner said no to everything the Justice Department wanted until President Trump said yes to upholding the Constitution’s mandate to respect states’ rights. Gardner did not relent until he got what he wanted.

You see, in the U.S. Senate, one senator has the ability to bring the business of the chamber to a grinding halt. It takes courage, to be sure, but it can be done.

If Gardner can stand up for Colorado for something as practically nonconsequential as marijuana (I know something about that issue since I am in the business), then our own Sen. Heller can stand up for Nevada’s existential fight against Trump and the nuke industry.

Together with Rosen, Dean can save this newest generation of Nevadans and our tourist industry from the uncertainty that comes with worrying every day about what will happen next with Yucca Mountain.

Sen. Heller, your colleague from Colorado taught us all how to stand up for the state you represent. You say you oppose Yucca Mountain, and I believe you.

Now is the time to join Rosen and our newest generations and show that you mean it.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.