Editorial: Still time to negotiate on Yucca Mountain

Tunnel inside Yucca Mountain (Energy Department pix)

The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, 340-72, this past week to restart the licensing process to make Yucca Mountain in Nye County the nation’s permanent repository of nuclear waste. H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, also ups the ante, increasing the storage cap from 70 metric tons of highly radioactive material to 110,000 metric tons — a 57 percent increase.

All four of Nevada’s representatives voted nay, even Northern Nevada Congressman Mark Amodei, a Republican who in the past has held out for negotiations that might provide some benefits for Nevada.

Amodei issued a press release explaining that he voted against the bill after the House Rules Committee rejected an amendment he had proposed.

“Since I was elected to Congress, I have always said I do not believe Yucca Mountain should be a simple dumping site for our nation’s nuclear waste,” Amodei said. “Additionally, I have always been cognizant that policy makers should not consider Yucca Mountain to be a ‘dead’ issue, meaning Nevada’s congressional delegation should use this opportunity to dictate the terms of the repository under the best conditions for our state. That’s exactly what I chose to do this week by offering an amendment to H.R. 3053 that would have given Nevada a seat at the table to expand upon the mission of the repository.”

His amendment would have directed that the state’s higher eduction system would head up nuclear research and development, designated proper routes for transportation, cleaned up contaminated facilities in Nevada and required the Department of Energy to locate reprocessing facilities at Yucca Mountain instead of just burying the waste. He said reprocessing could create thousands of jobs and recycle spent fuel for further energy production.

Nevada’s Democratic representatives were all in over-my-dead-body mode.

“I have fought the misguided and dangerous Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project for my entire career and I’m not giving up,” said Rep. Dina Titus. “This legislation is fundamentally flawed and going nowhere in the Senate.”

Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is running for Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s seat in the upper chamber, called permanent storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain a “reckless and ill-conceived plan that could put communities across the country in danger, jeopardize our military testing and training, waste billions more in taxpayer dollars, and harm Nevada’s tourism industry.”Though 119 Democrats voted for the bill and only 67 against, Rosen blamed the Republican-controlled Congress.

Lame duck Rep. Ruben Kihuen lamented, “I am disappointed that Congress has once again chosen to ignore the will of Nevadans and residents of Nevada’s Fourth Congressional District. 30 years have passed since Nevada was unfairly targeted by the ‘Screw Nevada’ bill and this new bill is nothing more than lipstick on a pig.”

Perhaps, Nevadans are not as knee-jerk opposed as some would have us believe.

Earlier this year, in an op-ed penned for the Reno newspaper, Dan Schinhofen, vice chairman of the Nye County Commission, noted that a poll taken by that newspaper showed 29.3 percent of respondents believed the project, if it included reprocessing, would be good for the economy, while 17.7 percent said Yucca Mountain would be OK if the state cuts a good deal, and 6.4 percent said Nevada should do it for national security — 53.4 percent open to discussion, as opposed to 43.4 percent who said the state should just fight the project.

Schinhofen wrote, “It is time to stop the unfounded fearmongering just to delay this multigenerational, multibillion-dollar project. Many, if not most, Nevadans want to have an honest discussion about Yucca Mountain, and the state’s politicians and opinion writers should start to listen.”

In a recent online article, retired Air Force Col. Bob Frank, chairman and co-founder of Nevadans CAN (Citizen Action Network), noted that recent breakthroughs in technology make it possible to safely and efficiently recycle spent nuclear fuel.

“The advanced reactors no longer require huge volumes of circulating external water to cool them,” Frank writes. “They can be independently installed anywhere in remote or populated areas where power is needed. They can produce uninterruptible power for 24/7/365 at varying levels for up to 30 years without needing more recycled fuel.”

He argues that Nevada has been an international pioneer in nuclear technology and could continue to lead the nation. Explore the possibilities instead of throwing a futile tantrum.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

 

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Nevada delegation reveals its priorities and political posturing

Trump signs spending bill

All of Nevada’s Democratic delegates to Congress voted to continue the federal government “shutdown” rather than trust the Republicans to bring to a vote the issue of amnesty for illegal immigrants.

The House voted 266-150 for a stopgap spending measure to fund the government until Feb. 8. The Senate voted 81-18 on the measure.

“It’s about time that Democrats came to their senses and made the decision to end their political games that led to the Schumer Shutdown. Their filibuster of legislation that would open the government, pay our troops, and fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was reckless and an example of Washington dysfunction at its worst. Because of their political posturing, Democrats sacrificed our national security, paying our troops, and care for this country’s most vulnerable children. It was particularly disappointing that for days, Senate Democrats blocked a vote on a piece of legislation that not only would have avoided a government shutdown and pay our troops, but contained many priorities – like CHIP and delaying the Cadillac tax – that they actually support. In fact, the legislation passed today is the same bill that was initially proposed last week with the exception of moving up the next deadline by eight days,” said Sen. Dean Heller.

His Democratic opponent this year, Rep. Jacky Rosen, showed where her priorities lie by stating, “I remain deeply disappointed by the systematic failure to address the critical issues facing this Congress, and I believe the only path forward to stop this dysfunction is a meaningful commitment to bipartisan problem-solving. Congress needs to work across the aisle to protect Nevada’s Dreamers and TPS workers, fund our community health centers, and pass a long-term budget that provides certainty for our government, our military, and our economy. … I will keep working across the aisle and fighting for a permanent solution in Congress that fixes President Trump’s cruel decision to end the DACA program and safeguards these young people.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto had a similar take on what is more important to her, “President Trump created a manufactured crisis when he ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Now, thousands are losing their jobs, their status, and their livelihoods. President Trump and Senator McConnell, when faced with the decision to bring up a long-term, bipartisan budget to address issues like providing health care for low income kids, funding our military, putting Dreamers on a pathway to citizenship and addressing the growing opioid epidemic, chose to hold Americans hostage and shutdown the government. … Dreamers cannot wait.”

Lame duck Rep. Ruben Kihuen, himself once an illegal immigrant, had this to say, “While I am pleased that today will end four months of Congressional Republicans’ holding nearly 9 million CHIP recipients hostage, I cannot support the legislation that passed the Senate earlier this afternoon. Unfortunately, this deal hinges upon the word of a Senator with a long history of breaking his promises and going back on his word. I cannot support a continuing resolution that fails to provide a permanent solution for DREAMers, fails to reauthorize funding for community health centers that serve nearly 90,000 Nevadans and 26 million people across the country, and fails to provide disaster relief to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas, California, and Florida.”

 

Priorities, priorities. Who represents who?

 

Editorial: It is time for Rep. Kihuen to step down

For the sake of the citizens of the 4th Congressional District of Nevada, it is time for Ruben Kihuen to resign.

As if the allegations of sexual harassment of a staffer during the 2016 campaign weren’t bad enough, Kihuen has turned himself into a pariah in the already minority Democratic Party by basically calling his party leaders liars. His effectiveness for his constituents is now nil.

According to a report by BuzzFeed, a female Kihuen campaign staffer quit in April 2016 after the candidate started propositioning her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections, and he twice touched her thighs without her consent.

Rep. Ruben Kihuen speaks to reporters in November 2016, while backer Harry Reid looks on. (AP file pix)

The woman said the propositions became more frequent and more aggressive and Kihuen asked her if she had ever “cheated on her boyfriend.” She said the candidate offered to get them a hotel room together while campaigning. She was quoted as saying, “I said ‘no’ very firmly and he just laughed at me. It was humiliating.”

Though he says he does not recall the described events, Kihuen was quoted as saying, “The staff member in question was a valued member of my team. I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable.”

Fellow Nevada Democratic Reps. Dina Titus and Jacky Rosen severely upbraided the 37-year-old, unmarried Kihuen.

“Many believed Ruben had great potential, but unfortunately his personal behavior has jeopardized his political career,” Titus said in a statement. “This culture of sexual harassment must end. Zero tolerance means zero tolerance. Ruben needs to step up and do what’s right for the people of Nevada.”

Rosen said in a statement, “The culture where this behavior is brushed aside has gone on for too long, and I believe Congressman Kihuen should step aside.”

While stopping short of calling for his resignation, Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto issued a statement saying all such allegations should be quickly and fully investigated.

Nevada Republic Sen. Dean Heller also called on Kihuen to resign.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Ben Ray Lujan, a New Mexico congressman, both called on Kihuen to step down.

“In Congress, no one should face sexual harassment in order to work in an office or in a campaign,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The young woman’s documented account is convincing, and I commend her for the courage it took to come forward. In light of these upsetting allegations, Congressman Kihuen should resign.”

Lujan said in a statement, “Members and candidates must be held to the highest standard. If anyone is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they should not hold elected office. Congressman Kihuen should resign.”

But first-term Rep. Kihuen, a former aide to Sen. Harry Reid who has largely held political patronage jobs, threw mud on the leadership, saying, “I do find it interesting that the DCCC, Leader [Nancy] Pelosi and Chairman Ben Ray Lujan — they knew about these allegations last year. They looked into them. They didn’t find anything, and they continued investing millions of dollars in my campaign. They went out there and campaigned for me.”

Spokesmen for Pelosi and Lujan immediately denied the claim.

“Sadly, this is not the case. Leader Pelosi first learned of these allegations from BuzzFeed last week,” her spokesman said.

“Congressman Kihuen’s statement is not true,” said the communications director for the DCCC. “We were presented with these disturbing facts for the first time last week, and the chair immediately called for his resignation.”

The chances of Kihuen being able to accomplish anything in Congress for those he represents are now dashed.

As accused sexual harassers Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Al Franken have promised to do, Kihuen should resign and let the governor call a special election to replace him as quickly as feasible.

The party primary elections for the next term in Congress are scheduled for June and the voters will have the final say in November. CD4 includes northern Clark County, southern Lyon County, and all of Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and White Pine counties.

The voters of Southern Nevada would be better served by a vacant office than by the unrepentant and self-absorbed Kihuen.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Another shoe drops on Kihuen

Just hours before the Mesquite Local News published an editorial calling for Rep. Ruben Kihuen to resign due to his inability to continue to serve his constituents because of his wild accusations against Democratic Party leadership, The Nevada Independent posted online a story about a Carson City lobbyist making strikingly similar allegations against Kihuen as those reported earlier by BuzzFeed.

The anonymous woman told the online, contribution-funded news outlet that during the 2015 legislative session then-state Sen. Kihuen touched her thighs or buttocks on three separate occasions without her consent and sent her hundreds of sexually suggestive text messages, including repeated requests to spend the night with her. She said she repeatedly denied his requests.

The news account was accompanied by a lengthy blog from the site’s editor, Jon Ralston, explaining how the story was reported and why the woman was granted anonymity.

“I don’t think Ruben thinks what he did was wrong,” the news story quotes the woman as saying. “Like, I think he just thought he was playing around, which, I don’t think he realized the position he probably put people in.”

The Independent reported that it sent Kihuen’s office a list of questions about the woman’s claims. In reply, Kihuen, 37 and unmarried, did not confirm or deny anything.

“During my ten years in the Legislature, I dated several different women. Out of respect for their privacy, I won’t discuss my communications or any other details of those relationships,” the Independent quoted from Kihuen’s statement, though the woman said she never dated Kihuen.

“I never went over to his house. I never kissed him. I don’t know what his definition of dating is, but usually dating is a mutual decision between two people to do things alone, which I never, ever did with him,” she told the news outlet.

According to BuzzFeed, a female Kihuen campaign staffer quit in April 2016 shortly after the candidate started propositioning her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections and twice touched her thighs without her consent.

The woman said the propositions became more frequent and more aggressive and Kihuen asked her if she had ever “cheated on her boyfriend.” She said the candidate offered to get them a hotel room together while campaigning and she told BuzzFeed, “I said ‘no’ very firmly and he just laughed at me. It was humiliating.”

According to the Mesquite newspaper editorial, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Ben Ray Lujan, a New Mexico congressman, both called on Kihuen to step down.

 

But first-term Rep. Kihuen, a former aide to Sen. Harry Reid who has largely held political patronage jobs, threw mud on the leadership, saying, “I do find it interesting that the DCCC, Leader [Nancy] Pelosi and Chairman Ben Ray Lujan — they knew about these allegations last year. They looked into them. They didn’t find anything, and they continued investing millions of dollars in my campaign. They went out there and campaigned for me.”

Spokesmen for Pelosi and Lujan immediately denied the claim.

Fellow Nevada Democratic Reps. Dina Titus and Jacky Rosen have called for Kihuen to leave.

The editorial said Kihuen has turned himself into a pariah in his own party, but now there is another accuser with a remarkably similar tale of callow, vulgar and socially unacceptable misbehavior.

 

Who is telling the truth in Kihuen contratempts

Lie detectors at 10 paces, turn and fire.

In order to protect his own hide from allegations of sexual harassment, Nevada’s CD4 Rep. Ruben Kihuen told ABC News that two people who are calling for him to resign over those allegations were aware of the claims back during the election campaign in 2016 and continued to support him.

According to BuzzFeed, a female Kihuen campaign staffer quit in April 2016 shortly after the candidate started propositioning her for dates and sex despite her repeated rejections and twice touched her thighs without her consent.

Reuben Kihuen

The woman said the propositions became more frequent and more aggressive and Kihuen asked her if she had ever “cheated on her boyfriend.” She said the candidate offered to get them a hotel room together while campaigning and she told BuzzFeed, “I said ‘no’ very firmly and he just laughed at me. It was humiliating.”

Kihuen now says both Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Ben Ray Lujan knew about the allegations, looked into them and did not find anything.

In fact the woman said she informed the DCCC as to why she was quitting. Kihuen’s campaign manager told BuzzFeed someone at the DCCC called to say the woman had quit because she felt “uncomfortable” around Kihuen, but there were no specifics and Kihuen denied any wrongdoing.

A spokesman for Pelosi said she was not aware of the allegation earlier and first learned of them from BuzzFeed.

“Congressman Kihuen’s statement is not true,” a DCCC spokesman said. “We were presented with these disturbing facts for the first time last week, and the chair immediately called for his resignation.”

“I’ve been abundantly clear that anyone that is guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault, that they don’t deserve to hold public office at any level, and I continue to hold that position,” Lujan said.

Kihuen has said he will not resign. Who is telling or stretching the truth?

 

 

 

Newspaper column: Tax reform debate falls down a rabbit hole

If you are trying to follow the debate in Washington about tax reform in its various and evolving iterations, you are likely to come away muttering: Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.

This past week the House passed its version of tax reform by a vote of 227-205 with not a single Democrat voting aye. The 13 Republicans who voted nay on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are mostly from high tax states such as California, New York and New Jersey, where constituents would no longer be able to deduct high state and local income and sales taxes.

Also this past week and on a party line vote of 14-12, the Senate Finance Committee, where Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller is a member, passed a slightly different tax reform bill with the same name.

Nevada’s Democratic delegates to D.C. were all singing from the same hymnal.

Democrat Rep. Ruben Kihuen, who represents northern Clark County and the southern portion of rural Nevada, declared the House bill “nothing more than a handout to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans that unfairly sticks working and middle-class families with the bill.”

Kihuen said the bill also will increase taxes by an average of $680 for 113,000 middle- and low-income Nevada families.

This figure apparently comes from the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), which calculated that in 2027 about 11 percent of Nevadans in the lowest 60 percent of earners would see taxes increase by $680. Kihuen neglected to mention that in that year 89 percent of those Nevadans in that earning range would still have a tax cut of $490, according to ITEP.

Nor does he mention that ITEP calculates that in 2018 only 3 percent of those lower tier earners would have a tax hike of $460, while 79 percent would see a tax cut of $610. How these number were derived is not explained.

The average tax cut for 84 percent of all Nevadans in 2018 would be $2,670, according to ITEP. Yes, the tax cut for the richest 1 percent would amount to more than $100,000. The poorest 20 percent would only save $270.

Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto chimed in by claiming the House bill would raise taxes on 36 million working and middle class families, without bothering to mention that in 2017 there were more than 145 million IRS tax returns filed.

Democrat Rep. Dina Titus of Las Vegas lamented, “Of the 50,000 constituents in my district who itemize their taxes, the majority earns less than $75,000 per year.” She failed to note that the standard deduction is being doubled and thus eliminates the need for itemizing for many of them. Nor did she mention that only 25 percent of Nevadans’ tax returns are itemized.

First-term Democrat Rep. Jacky Rosen of Henderson, who has already announced she is a candidate for Heller’s Senate seat, wailed, “This partisan plan adds $1.5 trillion to our deficit and could trigger a $25 billion cut from Medicare as well as further cuts to other programs, unfairly shifting costs onto Nevadans who rely on commonsense tax reliefs policies that help those saddled with high-cost medical expenses, students struggling to pay off their college loans, and teachers trying to buy basic supplies for their classrooms.”

But Republican Rep. Mark Amodei, who represents Northern Nevada, counters that such deficit claims fail to take into account the anticipated growth in GDP that should increase wages and jobs and actually grow federal tax revenue.

“Even a 1% increase in GDP generates about $3 trillion in revenue over 10 years — more than covering the anticipated $1.5 trillion deficit,” Amodei reported in an email. “The accuracy of this projection can be further evidenced by going back to the Clinton Administration where GDP growth was at 3.9% – the highest it’s ever been under the last five administrations – and the government was operating under a surplus.”

The congressman also pointed out that for those in his district with an annual income of around $64,000 the federal tax cut effect is more than $1,200 a year with the new brackets and increased standard deductions.

Amodei and Sen. Heller both cited the calculations by the Tax Foundation which estimates that both the House and Senate bills could bring 8,000 additional jobs to Nevada and boost middle-class income by $2,500 a year.

What are you going to believe? Historic precedence or cherry-picked examples of a handful of outliers?

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Editorial: An ounce of wildfire prevention worth a pound of cure

A house burns in Napa County, Calif., in October. (Getty Images)

Wildfires have become an increasingly costly and devastating problem in the West over the past decades as federal land managers have increasingly restricted logging and road building and maintenance.

The average number of acres burned each year in the past decade has topped 6 million, compared to 3 million a year in the 1970s. As of the end of October of this year there already had been nearly 53,000 fires that burned more than 8.8 million acres. In 2015, 9.7 million acres burned by the end of October.

The cost just for fighting wildfires this year is approaching a record breaking $3 billion, and that doesn’t take into account the economic costs of burned homes, agriculture and infrastructure. The wine country fires in mid-October in northern California are estimated to have resulted in $85 billion in economic losses.

The cost of fighting fires for the Forest Service has grown over the recent years from 15 percent of the agency’s annual budget to 55 percent.

Currently there are efforts on two fronts to change land management practices and spending from the costly and dangerous battling of fires to actually preventing them from occurring.

Earlier this year, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who is over the Bureau of Land Management, and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who heads the Forest Service, directed all federal land agencies to adopt more aggressive efforts to prevent wildfire through robust fuels reduction and other prevention techniques.

“This administration will take a serious turn from the past and will proactively work to prevent forest fires through aggressive and scientific fuels reduction management to save lives, homes, and wildlife habitat. It is well settled that the steady accumulation and thickening of vegetation in areas that have historically burned at frequent intervals exacerbates fuel conditions and often leads to larger and higher-intensity fires,” said Secretary Zinke in a press release. “These fires are more damaging, more costly, and threaten the safety and security of both the public and firefighters. In recent fire reviews, I have heard this described as ‘a new normal.’ It is unacceptable that we should be satisfied with the status quo. We must be innovative and where new authorities are needed, we will work with our colleagues in Congress to craft management solutions that will benefit our public lands for generations to come.”

On that Congressional front, this past week the House passed and sent to the Senate the Resilient Federal Forests Act, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Westerman, an Arkansas Republican and licensed forester, that would shorten the environmental review process for forest thinning, curb frivolous litigation by self-styled environmentalists and allow federal land managers to contract with private lumber mills to remove dead and dying trees and use the proceeds of the timber sale to better manage the lands.

The bill passed 232-188, largely along party lines, with less than a dozen Democratic votes. Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei voted in favor of the bill, while Nevada Democrats Dina Titus, Jacky Rosen and Ruben Kihuen opposed it.

“This is a bill based on a simple idea — that we must do more to expand active management in federal forests,” Republican Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, was quoted as saying. “With this bill, we tackle not only the symptoms of the crisis but also its root causes. We provide the resources for our firefighters, but also tools for our land managers to improve conditions on the ground and proactively mitigate the threat of wildfire.”

Rep. Amodei spoke on the floor of the House in 2015 in support of a similar bill that passed the House but died in the Senate, noting the need for fire prevention because once high desert forests in Nevada burn it takes a hundred years for them to grow back. He also noted that the fires devastate endangered and threatened species and their habitat.

Oddly enough, one of the main arguments against the bill by the environmentalists is that logging threatens endangered and threatened species. More so than raging wildfire?

We applaud the efforts by Secretaries Zinke and Perdue to spend our money more wisely and encourage the Senate to pass the the Resilient Federal Forests Act.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.