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U.S. House votes 340 to 72 to "Screw Nevada," again -- and perhaps New Mexico and Texas, too, while they're at it!

Return of the Yucca Dump Zombie?! Las Vegas Review Journal political cartoonist Jim Day declared the dump scheme dead in 2010, with the Obama administration's move to withdraw the DOE license application, and de-funding of the project. But today's U.S. House vote shows some twitching in one of the Yucca Dump Zombie Mutant's six toes (on each foot!). Opponents will have to redouble their efforts to block Yucca, as well as "parking lot dumps" targeted at NM and TX.

The biggest vote on nuclear waste policy on the U.S. House floor in 16 years took place this morning.

By a final vote of 340 to 72, the U.S. House of Representatives has just voted in favor of H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018. (16 members did not vote. The preceding link lists how each member voted -- the roll call vote only happened thanks to the intervention of anti-Yucca dump champion, Dina Titus, Democrat of Nevada -- see below.)

(See the May 5, 2018 analysis by Robert J. Halstead, Executive Director of the State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, entitled "Comments on Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018, H.R. 3053, Rules Committee Print 115-69." The analysis helpfully lists several very significant changes to the bill, made in very recent days, by the Rules Committee of the U.S. House. These changes affect such aspects of the legislation as funding mechanisms for the Yucca Mountain dump moving forward. In fact, these changes regarding congressional comittee control over annual appropriations, as opposed to mandatory funding allocations -- as well other exemptions from financial accountability, budgetary trickery, and deficit gimmicks -- is what broke the months-long impasse between House appropriators and authorizers, unfortunately enabling this bill to move forward to a floor vote.)

This bad vote happened, desipte a letter signed by Beyond Nuclear and 166 additional environmental groups nationwide, opposing H.R. 3053, that was delivered to every single U.S. House office earlier this week.

This dangerously bad vote also happened despite not hundreds, but thousands, of constitutent phone calls, emails, faxes, letters, and face-to-face meetings, between concerned citizens and their U.S. Representatives, that have happened in the past days, weeks, months, and year -- as urged and encouraged by Beyond Nuclear action alerts and those of many other groups.

On May 7, 2018, Beyond Nuclear, for example, delivered this letter (.pdf format; .doc format, with functioning hyper-links) to U.S. House offices -- similar to such packages delivered to the U.S. House multiple times over the past 13 months re: H.R. 3053.

One way to look at it is, we (a coaliton of now well over a thousand environmental groups) have been successfully blocking the Yucca dump for at least 31 years. And, despite today's lopsided vote, "we have not yet begun to fight!"

Here are the results for the Dina Titus (Democrat-Nevada) amendment that would have required consent-based siting:

The Titus amendment failed, by a vote of 80-332; 1 RY and 107 DNs. (DN = Democrats voting No; RY = Republicans voting Yes -- noting the members who voted contra-usual, assuming a partisan vote). The one RY was U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV).


This lopsided, bad vote happened, despite a letter, signed by Beyond Nuclear and 35 other environmental groups, urging support for the Titus amendment. (The coalition only had less than five hours, once amendments were revealed, to gather signatures, given how fast the Screw Nevada 2.0 voting process was being rammed through by House Republican Leadership!)


Titus did end up requesting a recorded roll call vote on not only her own amendment, above, but also on the underlying bill, H.R. 3053. There had long been a rumor H.R. 3053 would merely be voice-voted, with no record of how individual members ended up voting.


As reported above, the H.R. 3053 final vote was 340-72, in favor of passage; 5 RNs and 119 DYs (RN = Republicans voting No; DYs = Democrats voting Yes -- again, noting the members who voted contra-usual, assuming a partisan vote). RNs were Justin Amash of MI, Mark Amodei of NV, Rob Bishop of UT, Mia Love of UT, and Thomas Massie of KY.


(To see a transcript of the House floor debate, and votes, from today, see it posted online here. Thanks to Mary Beth Brangan of Ecological Options Network for sharing it with us.)


The congressional actions associated with the full legislative history of this bill are posted here (note tabs for additional info. about H.R. 3053).




Folks are encouraged to look up your U.S. Rep.'s vote on the Titus amendment, as well as the overall vote on the underlying base bill, H.R. 3053. If your U.S. Rep. voted in favor of the Titus amendment, in favor of consent-based siting, please thank them for that; conversely, if your U.S. Rep. voted against consent-based siting, by voting against the Titus amendment, please "spank" them for that (register your disapproval and disagreement, as well as disappointment).


Similarly, if your U.S. Rep. voted against the base bill, H.R. 3053, please thank them; if your U.S. Rep. voted in favor of H.R. 3053, to Screw NV, NM, and/or TX, please "spank" them for voting the wrong way.


You can also check to see if highly radioactive waste shipments, by the tens of thousands over decades, by truck and/or train, will travel through your U.S. congressional district. 330 of the 435 U.S. congressional districts, in 44 states, and dozens of major cities, are thus impacted.


Additional U.S. congressional districts would be impacted by potential barge shipments of irradiated nuclear fuel -- on the Great Lakes, rivers, and seacoasts, in many states -- if and when the Yucca Mountain, NV, and/or CISFs in NM and/or TX, open.


You can include information about such high-risk road, rail, and/or waterway shipments in your thanks or "spanks" to your member of the U.S. House of Representatives, depending on how they voted on the Titus amendment, and the base bill (H.R. 3053). And remember, it's not just the 330 congressional districts that would be directly traversed by road and/or rail shipments of highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel, that would be impacted. So too would be downwind and downstream congressional districts, near enough to a severe accident, or intentional attack, involving such a shipment, in the case of a shipping container breach, and release of hazardous radioactivity.


You can look up the contact info. for your U.S. Rep. at this link, in order to register your thanks or "spanks" with them.


In short, the U.S. House of Representatives has thus voted, by a wide margin, to "Screw Nevada, again." The Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1987, which singled out Yucca Mountain as the only site in the country to be further studied (and targeted) for a national geologic repository for highly radioactive waste disposal, is most popularly known as the "Screw Nevada" bill. Other targeted states, more politically powerful at the time, such as Texas, Washington, New Hampshire, and others, ganged up on Nevada 31 years ago. But Nevada has fought tooth and nail against the unwanted dump ever since. During today's debate on her consent-based siting amendment, Rep. Titus referred to H.R. 3053 as the "Screw Nevada 2.0" bill.




But H.R. 3053 could just as well "Screw Texas" and/or "Screw New Mexico." The bill, if passed into law, would authorize such privately-owned, U.S. Department of Energy-funded (that is, federal taxpayer funded!), so-called "centralized interim storage facilities," (CISFs) or "monitored retrievable storage sites" (MRSs) -- more truthfully described as away from reactor, de facto permanent, surface storage, "parking lot dumps." Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS) in Andrews County, west TX, has applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to construct and operate a CISF for 40,000 metric tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel. Holtec International/Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance (ELEA), halfway between Hobbs and Carlsbad in southeast New Mexico, has applied to NRC to construct and operate an MRS for 100,000 to 173,600 metric tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel. (The two "parking lot dumps" are just 40 miles from each other -- thus proposing a "nuclear sacrifice zone" straddling the largely Hispanic, already badly polluted (by fossil fuel and nuclear industries) TX/NM borderlands, an environmental injustice!)




Today's vote went even worse than the May 8, 2002 vote by the U.S. House to override the State of Nevada's veto of the Yucca dump. That vote was 306 in favor of "Screwing Nevada," with 117 opposed.


With all of these congressional votes, to Screw NV and/or TX and/or NM, perhaps they should also have amended the Pledge of Allegiance, to read instead: " nation, under God, indivisible -- except when it comes to highly radioactive waste, then it's every state for themselves!"




The silver lining in today's vote, as articulated by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) during the House floor debate, is that there is no indication whatsoever that the U.S. Senate will take up the bill. Dean Heller of Nevada is the most vulnerable incumbent Republican U.S. Senator in this November's mid-term elections. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and the rest of the U.S. Senate Republican caucus, do not want to lose their razor-thin majority on Election Day. If the Yucca dump issue comes up on the U.S. Senate floor, Sen. Heller could well lose his re-election. So chances are high that McConnell will not let any such bill reach the Senate floor before Election Day.




The day after the election, however, and the entire rest of the "lame duck" session of Congress, could well turn out to be a whole other matter in this regard. Opponents to both the permanent burial dump targeted at Yucca Mountain, NV, as well as CISFs targeted at NM and TX, will thus have to remain vigilant against H.R. 3053, or any other legislation like it, moving in the U.S. Senate, for the foreseeable future!




Food & Water Watch is right (see Update below), we should take nothing for granted. They have already prepared a webform action alert for communicating with your U.S. Senators, in the aftermath of this U.S. House vote. Please take action!


You can also phone your U.S. Senators via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can use the same arguments contained in the Beyond Nuclear action alert re: H.R. 3053 in the U.S. House, to educate your U.S. Senators' offices about the risks of targeting NV, NM, and/or TX with permanent or so-called "interim" highly radioactive waste dumps.