Does monument designation derail rail right of way to Yucca Mountain?

Caliente Railroad Depot

Both the Sun and the Review-Journal have reported that the declaration creating the 700,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument could block any right of way for a rail link from Caliente to Yucca Mountain for nuclear waste transport.

The Sun quotes a state official as saying, “This is the final nail in the coffin.”

The R-J blithely stated, “The designation would also block a possible future rail corridor for nuclear waste shipments to the proposed Yucca Mountain repository.”

Despite the congressional abdication of its constitutionally enumerated power to control public lands with the Antiquity Act of 1906, Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution still reads: “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States …”

Among “all needful Rules and Regulations” certainly would be the power to designate a right of way through a national monument.

Of course, Congress could also play hardball and route the nuke waste through Las Vegas via rail and/or truck. Be careful what moves you make in this game of nuclear chess.

Caliente Rail Spur

Basin and Range National Monument as proposed by Harry Reid (R-J graphic)

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the ‘discussion’ about Yucca Mountain

The Las Vegas newspaper carried a news story about Rep. Cresent Hardy saying he was open to discussion about whether Yucca Mountain should be used to store nuclear waste, as well as an op-ed by the congressman explaining his stance, and a follow-up in the Monday paper.

Department of Energy photo

Where have I heard that before?

Oh, yes, right here more than a month ago, when the freshman congressman said he had been talking with constituents from White Pine, Nye and Lincoln counties and found they are open to discussion about the future of Yucca Mountain.

“I think Nevada needs to be in that discussion,” Hardy said. “We need to be involved in it. I’ll never agree to have it shoved down our throats, but I think we need to be involved. If its got to come here, this is the best safety issue for it, then we need to be looking at the opportunities that we may have, if they’re there.”

In fact, Rep. Mark Amodei, who represents of the other half of rural Nevada, said he thinks there will be a vote on Yucca Mountain this session and suggests the state’s leaders need to engage in a conversation instead of “just screaming, no.” He said he is willing to talk about funding for I-11 from Phoenix to Las Vegas, putting resources into reprocessing research at UNLV, economic development in rural Nevada and involving the Desert Research Institute in the monitoring of the site.

“We’re not looking for ‘Hey, how much can we hold you up for.’ If you think this is bound and determined where it needs to be, and 49 other states are in on that deal,” he said, “let’s leave a favorable footprint in Nevada. Nobody wants a nuclear landfill, so what can you do to make it not a nuclear landfill in the context of economic development.”

I don’t think either of them is suggesting the federal government do what it once planned to do: Fill the tunnels in Yucca Mountain with nuclear waste and then roll stone in front of it, post a few warning signs and walk away. One alternative might be to store in dry casks on the surface. That works elsewhere. Nuclear waste could eventually be resource to be reprocessed, which could provide jobs and economic benefits.

But Harry Reid, Dean Heller and Brian Sandoval just keep screaming, no.

Reid released a statement chastising Hardy for deigning to suggest discussions:

“Rep. Hardy is living in a world that doesn’t exist. Opening the door to a nuclear dump Nevada is not something I will ever accept. Yucca Mountain is not ‘an issue that long ago lost its middle.’ When it comes to protecting the health and safety of Nevadans from a potential environmental catastrophe, there is no benefit worth bargaining for. Nevada’s own experts, the Nuclear Waste Project Office, have worked for years with scientists and technical experts to reveal that Yucca Mountain is a highly risky, half-baked proposal riddled with technical flaws that guarantee eventual failure.”

 

 

 

 

 

Newspaper column: Amodei expects big returns for Nevada from Congress

As the 114th Congress gets under way, Rep. Mark Amodei, whose district covers the northern half of the state, is optimistic the House can pass legislation to allow Nevada and other Western states to take control of some portion of federal lands within their borders, though he is not sure about how it will fare in the Senate.

This quest has been flaring up from time to time since the beginning of the Sagebrush Rebellion in the 1970s.

Amodei noted that much of the press for states taking more control of federal land started in Utah, and it just so happens the chair the Natural Resources Committee is from Utah, Rob Bishop, who he expects will give lands bills favorable consideration.

“It’s something I think we need to address in Nevada,” Amodei said.

Rep. Mark Amodei

He also said he was impressed with documentation produced by the Nevada Public Lands Management Task Force, under the leadership of Elko County Commissioner and rancher Demar Dahl, which said that the state could generate millions in revenue by taking over even a small portion of the land now under the control of the Bureau of Land Management.

He said he expects some form of a lands bill will clear the committees and be approved on the floor of the House.

Amodei also noted that the delegation has reintroduced a bill that would stop the president from unilaterally creating National Monuments and other designations that block mining and oil and natural gas exploration and affect ranching.

In the middle of January Obama called for Congress to declare 13 million acres of Alaska a wilderness area, but he also instructed the Interior Department to treat the land as wilderness until Congress acts, making it a de facto wilderness now.

“I think the time that we operate in is unprecedented in terms of the efforts by an executive to basically do as he damned well pleases and to heck with what the people of both parties see as the sidelines and the end zones,” the congressman said. “This guy is like, ‘I don’t recognize any boundaries.’”

Asked about Sen. Harry Reid’s bill to bar development on more than a million acres of land in Gold Butte and Coal and Garden valleys in Cresent Hardy’s district, Amodei replied, “I’ll tell you what I learned from Harry Reid and the Yerington land bill … Senator Reid said, and he’ll acknowledge it, he said we need a, quote, conservation element in that bill, unquote.” Reid demanded the creation of the Wovoka Wilderness area.

Amodei said that in the future when someone proposes a land conservation measure he will reply: “I’ll look at that and, if it turns out it is meritorious, then I’ll support it, but that won’t be good enough. I want to know now if that’s just a conservation element, what’s the economic development element in that bill or what’s the transfer of lands to the county element in that bill?”

Congressional district map

As another example of Obama doing as he damned well pleases, Amodei pointed to his executive orders declaring amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants and said Congress may join the federal lawsuit filed by 26 states, including Nevada. “I think we’ll be voting on that within the next two weeks.”

Citing Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, Amodei noted that Congress is empowered with establishing a uniform rule for naturalization. His problem is not so much with what Obama did but how he did it.

He said the House should put forward some kind of immigration reform legislation and let everyone put their votes on record.

Amodei also thinks there will be a vote on Yucca Mountain this session and suggests the state’s leaders need to engage in a conversation instead of “just screaming, no.” He said he is willing to talk about funding for I-11 from Phoenix to Las Vegas, putting resources into reprocessing research at UNLV, economic development in rural Nevada and involving the Desert Research Institute in the monitoring of the site.

“We’re not looking for ‘Hey, how much can we hold you up for.’ If you think this is bound and determined where it needs to be, and 49 other states are in on that deal,” he said, “let’s leave a favorable footprint in Nevada. Nobody wants a nuclear landfill, so what can you do to make it not a nuclear landfill in the context of economic development.”

As if on cue, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the new Republican chair of a Senate energy subcommittee, told members of the Nuclear Energy Institute this week, “There is renewed hope under our Republican majority that we can solve the 25-year-old stalemate on what to do with waste from our nuclear reactors — and Yucca Mountain can and should be part of the solution.”

Amodei also expects the House to act on sage grouse protection and blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from grabbing control of all surface water.

A version of this column appears this week in 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.

It’s been the ‘law of the land’ since 1987, Harry

On his Facebook page Harry Reid has written:

“The Affordable Care Act has been the law of the land for four years. Democrats are willing to work with reasonable Republicans to improve this law. But we will not bow to Tea Party anarchists who deny the mere fact that Obamacare is the law. We will not bow to Tea Party anarchists who refuse to accept that the Supreme Court ruled Obamacare to be constitutional. And we will not bow to Tea Party anarchists in the House and the Senate who ignore the fact that President Obama was overwhelmingly reelected in November.”

In a column today Review-Journal columnist Steve Sebelius asserts that ObamaCare is the “duly passed, court-upheld, election-tested, unamended law of the land.”

To which I reply with two words: Yucca Mountain.

The Screw Nevada Law has been the law of the land since 1987 when Louisiana Sen. J. Bennett Johnston rammed through a bill making Yucca Mountain the sole repository of spent nuclear fuel rods. It was passed by the House and Senate, signed by President Reagan, upheld by the courts and never repealed. Yet, the Yucca Mountain hole in the ground sits idle, defunded by Harry Reid and his Barack Obama.

What’s good for the goose is not good for the gander?

Yucca Mountain hole in the ground. (R-J photo by Jessica Ebelhar)

(Confession: I swiped the comparison of ObamaCare to Yucca Mountain from alert reader Steve.)