The Nevada Appeal

Pro-nuke dump lawmaker criticizes state office

By Christy Chalmers
Appeal Capitol Bureau

Saturday, April 17, 1999

A Clark County senator called funding proposed for the state's Nuclear Waste Project Office "a joke," saying there's no way he'll support it while other projects go unfunded.

Sen. William O'Donnell, R-Las Vegas, Sen. Bill O'Donnell made his comments Friday as the Senate Finance Committee discussed various state budgets.

The Nuclear Waste Project Office, which lobbies on Nevada's behalf about the federal proposal to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in southern Nevada, is budgeted for about $1.1 million in the coming year and slightly less in the following year. Another $400,000 in transportation money could be allocated each year, but most of the money would come from the state general fund.

The recommendations are about $800,000 lower than what the office's current budget.

Senate Finance Chairman Bill Raggio, R-Reno, asked what federal funding the office is to get and said he wants to know how the money is spent.

Budget chief Perry Comeaux said that assurance isn't a problem, but O'Donnell criticized the funding, saying there are worthier projects that general fund money could support.

"I cannot support this one bit," he said. "This is way out of line. This is a joke to spend that much money on an office that has failed in the past and is tenable at best in the future. I cannot support this. No way."

Raggio postponed action on the agency's budget because he wants more information on nuclear-related projects that could be handled by the state university system, as well as any lobbying efforts the agency plans to undertake.

O'Donnell has criticized the nuclear office in the past, saying Nevada should accept the waste facility and focus instead on money or benefits to mitigate potential impacts of the waste.

E-mail:  Sen. Bill O'Donnell
E-mail:  Sen. William J. Raggio