House to vote on energy spending bill with Yucca Mountain funds

Members of a congressional tour of the Yucca Mountain exploratory tunnel enter the south portal, April 9, 2015. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas Review-Journal)Just below the west rim of Yucca Mountain on May 3, 2017, USW WT-7 is one of 28 wells drilled to measure water level altitude and ground-water flow in 1993. Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal flowers bloom on the fringe of Solitario Canyon, west of Yucca Mountain, May 3, 2017. Keith Rogers Las Vegas Review-Journal

WASHINGTON — A $44.7 billion spending package for energy programs, including the Yucca Mountain project, is scheduled for a vote in the House this week.

A Senate version of the bill approved last month does not include spending for Yucca Mountain, setting up an impasse with the House similar to one last year that prevented the project from moving forward.

House lawmakers have included the Yucca Mountain funding in their version of the bill, leaving open the prospect that differences in the legislation could be ironed out in a House-Senate conference committee.

The bill includes $267.7 million for the Department of Energy for its application for a license to construct a permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The amount is an increase over the $100 million sought by the president for the Nevada project.

Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., has filed a series of amendments to strip funding from the bill. The Rules Committee will determine Tuesday whether the amendments will be included.

Rosen said her amendments, if passed, “would ensure we do not fund or support efforts to bring back this risky and ill-conceived project.”

Congress in 1987 designated as the sole site for permanent nuclear waste storage. More than $15 billion was spent studying the site.

The licensing process on DOE’s application to build the facility was delayed in 2011 when the Obama administration, at the behest of then-Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., cut funding.

President Donald Trump sought to renew the the licensing process in 2017, but the effort went nowhere after the House and Senate failed to agree on funding.

Nevada’s entire congressional delegation has voted against authorization legislation to renew the Yucca Mountain project.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has pledged state resources to litigate an attempt by the federal to store nuclear waste in Nevada.

The lack of a permanent storage site has resulted in a stockpiling of nuclear waste at power plants and military sites across country.

Gary Martin at or. Follow on Twitter.

Texas weighing options

A spokesman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Monday the state is considering other legal avenues after the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to force a licensing decision on the proposed nuclear waste storage project at Yucca Mountain.

“We disagree with the court’s ruling and are considering our next legal steps in the case,” said Marc Rylander, director of communications for the Texas attorney general.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said the state’s victory in the decision on the Texas lawsuit stopped “federal overreach.”

— Gary Martin