The Battle Mountain Bugle

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

County questions worth of battling Yucca decision

Commissioners choose not to join in on lawsuit

By Dave Woodson
Bugle Editor

While Nevada's Governor and the state's Congressional delegation are promising to fight to the finish to keep Yucca Mountain from becoming the nation's high level nuclear waste dump, Lander County officials are wondering if it is worth the effort to battle what they perceive as a foregone conclusion.

Commissioners have determined not to contribute county funds to the $5.4-million war chest Gov. Kenny Guinn is seeking for a pitched battle in the courts and in Congress.

"If it is going to be here anyway, then why throw $1-million to the lawyers," observed county board chairman Mickey Yarbro.

Senator John Ensign reacted with anger to President George W. Bush's decision on Friday to select Yucca. Mountain as the nation's radioactive waste depository and vowed to fight the decision.

"Baseball great Yogi Berra said, 'it ain't over 'til it's over' and it ain't over'," Ensign said.

Lander County's Yucca Mountain watchdog, Rex Massey of Research and Consulting Services Inc., told that county board last week that for all practical purposes it is over.

Yarbro asked Massey if he had any indication that the nuclear waste would be going anywhere other than Yucca Mountain.

"No," Massey replied. He said in a recent meeting with Department of Energy (DOE) officials they were not "mincing" words.

"They were saying hey, this is going to be the recommendation, this going to be the site'," he reported.

Yarbro observed that the county's opposition probably was not much, if any, of a factor in the decision making process.

"They know we don't want it," Yarbro said. "They are just patting us on the back then."

"They have put too much money into this one."

"A lot of money going out," Commissioner Bill Elquist added.

Lander County officials believe that spending funds to fight the Yucca Mountain decision is probably a waste of money.

"I do know that it is going to be here and the governor wants a lot of money to fight it," Yarbro said. "If you are telling us it is going to be here than why would Lander County want to give him a couple of hundred thousand dollars?"

He said he saw no reason "to fight the inevitable."

Massey said that he felt the state had some legitimate concerns to take to the courts and the Congress, but those were different than the concerns of Lander County.

"The big part of this project, at least for us, is going to be the transportation aspect," Massey said.

He did caution the board that they should be very aware during their dealings with the state over the Yucca Mountain issue and particularly the transportation situation.

"Then it almost puts us in a position of us against the state'" Massey noted. "You don't know who your friends are in this battle.

"Well, we can't have waste going through Las Vegas, you guys got to take it."

Yarbro said he understood that Lander County did not want to be feuding with other areas of Nevada.

He noted that Lander County might gain a small amount financially from the Yucca Mountain project.

"The income that is going to be generated from the construction of Yucca Mountain is going to be in the billions - probably - of dollars and that money is going into the coffers of Nevada and we will get a little bit of that too," Yarbro said.

Massey said that he would attempt to have Lander County included in an on-going study of transportation risk assessment and potential accident scenarios.

"Maybe doing some work for us and enhancing the work they did for the state," Massey said, "Because they talked a lot about impacts on the Humboldt River system. "

He said he did not think the final Environmental Impact Statement would address the transportation issue_

"I think that is going to be left open for quite a while," Massey said_

Yarbro pointed out that the county did not have the funds to contribute to the state's funding for the Yucca Mountain fight.

"For one reason, to be very truthful on my part, is that we requested funds from them and they didn't have the money," he said. "Well, we're out of money because we had to put that money into those projects."

Massey said he told the board that the DOE was "very serious" about Yucca Mountain being the dump site.

After Bush's selection of Yucca Mountain, Ensign echoed Massey's comments.

"The Department of Energy has been hell bent on shoving waste into our backyard, regardless of what science and common sense show," Ensign said.

Nevada officials took quick action on Friday, after Bush's announcement, and filed a suit against the plan that would store 77,000 tons of the nation's nuclear waste in underground tunnels at Yucca Mountain.

"I am outraged as are the citizens of Nevada that this project would go forward with so many unanswered questions," Guinn said "this is an outrage."

Guinn said he would veto the President's plan and send the issue to Congress.

Sen. Harry Reid said he would use his position as the Majority Whip, the second highest-ranking Democrat in Congress, to fight the President's selection of Yucca Mountain.

Reid also accused Bush of breaking a campaign promise he made while touring Lake Tahoe during the 2000 presidential campaign to rely on solid science and not politics to make his decision.

"Today President Bush has broken his promise," Reid said on Friday. "Today President Bush has betrayed our trust and endangered the American public."

"All Americans should be concerned, not just because he lied to me or the people of Nevada and indeed all Americans, but because the President's decision threatens American lives."

Reid said the President`s plan would require the shipment of nuclear waste through 43 states on 20,000 rail cars or 100,000 trucks.

"The President has created 100,000 opportunities for terrorists," Reid said.

Ensign said he would band together with his counterpart from the opposite side of the aisle to lobby Congress to reject the selection of Yucca Mountain.

"Nevada has earned its reputation as the Battle Born' state," Ensign said. "Now the real battle will begin."