TETREAULT STEPHENS, WASHINGTON BUREAU
01 October 2004
-- Unable to break a stalemate over Yucca Mountain
funding for next year, Congress has decided to put off
the fight until after Election Day.
might receive a signal from voters whether to continue
developing a nuclear waste repository in Nevada or to
scrap the project, depending on who they elect as
president, analysts said.
House and Senate on Wednesday enacted temporary spending
bills to keep government departments operating beyond
Friday, the start of the new fiscal year.
agencies were given authority to continue spending money
at this year's levels until Nov. 20. Lawmakers plan a
lame-duck session after the Nov. 2 elections to complete
work on 2005 spending and other unfinished business.
returns might influence what Congress does on Yucca
Mountain during the session, said Brian O'Connell,
nuclear waste director for the National Association of
Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
Sen. John Kerry wins the presidency, "Congress
could go with a low number and say we need a
timeout," O'Connell said. Kerry has told voters in
Nevada he would kill the repository program if elected.
President Bush wins, O'Connell said, Yucca backers
"presumably would try to boost up" spending on
Defense Department is unaffected by the stopgap spending
bill because Bush signed its fiscal 2005 share into law
in August. But Congress has not finished 12 other bills
that set spending levels for other government agencies,
including the Department of Energy.
have been unable to finish the spending bill for energy
and water projects because of Yucca Mountain. Sen. Harry
Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., the
leaders of the Senate energy and water subcommittee,
have been unable to agree on an amount for the
said other problems exist with the energy and water bill
besides Yucca Mountain. Legislators disagree over
studies for "bunker buster" nuclear weapons
and spending for water projects.
again, the Republicans have failed to move Congress to
get its work done in a timely manner," Reid said in
temporary spending bills allow DOE to spend prorated
portions of $577 million on Yucca Mountain, the same
amount they were given for 2004, officials said.
might be entitled to part of the temporary funding, said
Bob Loux, director of the state's Agency for Nuclear
Projects. He said he planned to ask DOE for $80,000 or
more, a pro-rated share of what the state received last
has been stymied all year over the Yucca Mountain
Bush administration asked for $880 million to continue
repository work in 2005 but added a wrinkle that had the
effect of undercutting its request.
administration assumed that $749 million would come from
restructuring the nuclear waste fund that pays for the
Yucca project. But Congress refused to go along, leaving
the Energy Department with only $131 million to spend on
the Nevada program without making deep cuts in other
the Senate subcommittee chairman, proposed a one-time
surcharge on nuclear utilities to raise $466 million.
But he ran into resistance from the nuclear industry and
fiscal conservatives who saw the plan as an energy tax.
conservative leaders sent a letter to Domenici on Sept.
22 that urged him to abandon the idea.
a half-billion dollar tax hike on this important
industry and forcing them to pay for government
mishandling of the budget is not the way we as
conservatives believe a Republican-controlled Congress
should proceed," the letter said.
Las Vegas Review-Journal