While there are a number of organizations dedicated to fighting the proposed national nuclear-waste dump at Yucca Mountain, now there is one formed to seek its possible benefits.
A new coalition of business leaders and government lobbyists, dubbed “For a Better Nevada,” announced its arrival on Dec. 27. The group seeks to exploit the dump as a cash cow for Nevadans.
“I think generally people feel this project is going to happen,” said lobbyist and coalition coordinator Chris Barrett of I.W. Strategies in Reno.
Barrett said the idea for the coalition stemmed from discussion following the passage of the new tax code during the last legislative session. Keeping things like environmental research in-state funnels more money into local coffers, the group contends. Likewise, construction contracts and other services should be given to Nevadans, Barrett said. That may explain why so many of the coalition’s members are linked to construction and land development.
But some environmentalists don’t believe that members are meeting simply for purposes of research.
“Somebody went out and hand-picked those people,” said Peggy Maze Johnson of Citizen Alert. “I’m just furious. Do they think we’re stupid?”
Indeed, in the 1980s, Jim Marsh, one of FBN’s founding members, was involved in a nuclear waste study committee. And, according to Nuclear Waste Taskforce founder Judy Treichel, Marsh is also one of a few businessmen in the state to already have received economic benefits from the proposed dump, as he owns a favorite Yucca Mountain meeting location, the Longstreet Hotel in Amargosa Valley.
According to the coalition, other possible benefits of the project include payments equal to taxes to local governments, transfers of public land for community development and help meeting state water needs.
“I think the people of Nevada have yet to fully recognize the positive benefits of what this project can amount to,” Candice Trummell, Nye County Commission chairman and coalition co-founder, said in a written statement.
The coalition’s 19 founding members include Ed Burke of Las Vegas Teamsters Local 631, Reno’s Rod Cooper of Granite Construction Co., CEO of American Pacific John Gibson, Lincoln County Commission Chairman Spencer Hafen and (Reno) Q&D Construction president Norman Dianda.
Barrett wants to make one thing clear. The point of the new coalition is not to come out in favor of or against the proposed waste facility.
“Fighting it is the government’s job,” Barrett said.
Others, of course, disagree.
"These are some greedy individuals who don’t want to miss their chance," Treichel said. "Needless to say, I’m not very pleased about it."