Morning Briefing - September 24, 2018
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September 24, 2018

Trump Lets Yucca Mountain Go Again

By ExchangeMonitor

President Donald Trump on Friday signed the first congressionally approved “minibus” appropriations bill for fiscal 2019, which cuts out all proposed funding at the Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission for licensing a nuclear waste repository under Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

The White House made no mention of the matter in statements on the bill, which Trump signed while in Nevada.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who generally promotes any legislative victory against Yucca Mountain, did not mention the issue in tweets or a formal statement as he accompanied the president in Las Vegas. A Heller spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), though, addressed the matter in a press release: “I am equally proud of what I was able to keep out of the funding package: federal funds for Yucca Mountain. I will continue to fight tooth and nail against plans to put a radioactive waste dump in Nevadans’ backyard. Nevadans can rest assured I will continue working to defend them and their interests in Washington.”

In February, the administration asked for nearly $170 million to fund resumption of Yucca licensing activities at DOE and the NRC, which were defunded nearly a decade ago by then-President Barack Obama.

The House of Representatives pushed that up to $270 million, while the Senate zeroed out all money for the project. Negotiations on a multi-agency appropriations bill covering DOE and the NRC finished with nothing for Yucca, and both houses of Congress approved the legislation earlier this month. Fiscal 2019 begins on Oct. 1.

The White House got the same result for the current fiscal 2018, when it asked for about $150 million for Yucca.

The Energy Department and NRC on Friday did not respond to queries on whether they anticipate requesting money for the project again for fiscal 2020. Funding proposals for that budget year should arrive in February.

One House lawmaker has already indicated the battle over Yucca Mountain will continue.

“We’re going to keep trying, and we’ve got a couple of different alternatives that we’re going to pursue, not only before the year is out but in the next Congress as well,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) told Michigan radio station WJSM last week.