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Nevada ups ante in Yucca Mt. fight with political stakes

February 16, 2018

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada’s Board of Examiners has approved a $5.1 million contract with an outside legal team to help fight President Trump’s proposal to restart the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Las Vegas — a battle that could have political implications for Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s re-election bid.

The Nevada Appeal reports the panel chaired by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval voted unanimously this week to extend the state’s contract for another two years with the Austin, Texas-based legal firm Egan, Fitzpatrick, Malsch & Lawrence.

For the second year in a row, Trump’s budget request to Congress on Monday included $120 million for the Department of Energy to resume efforts to relicense the mothballed waste project.

Robert Halstead, the head of Nevada’s Nuclear Projects Agency, says the state lacks the legal expertise in dealing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do the work on its own. The state has been working with the firm on the effort since 2001.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a Republican running for governor, said he believes between his office, the contract law firm and Halstead’s agency, “we have the best legal, technical team this state could ask for right now.”

Sandoval, who completes his second and final term this year, said the battle has been going on since he was in the Nevada Assembly more than 20 years ago.

“It’s deja vu all over again,” Sandoval said. “We have to maintain the vigor, the ferocity, the tenacity” to resist the Trump administration’s proposal.

Heller, one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans running for re-election this year, helped block such requests for years and vowed this week to continue to fight to make sure the project “doesn’t see the light of day.”

But in an effort to further distinguish himself from Heller, his GOP primary challenger Danny Tarkanian praised the Trump administration’s effort to restart licensing of the high-level radioactive waste facility.

The Las Vegas business man and son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian said it provides an opportunity for Nevada to become a leader in the reprocessing of nuclear fuel and potentially bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment to the state.

“In pushing to revive the project, the Trump administration recognizes how important Yucca Mountain is to Nevada and America,” Tarkanian said. “Dean Heller should be ashamed of himself for standing against President Trump, a safer American and more prosperous future for Nevada.”

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Information from: Nevada Appeal, http://www.nevadaappeal.com

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