Rick Perry and Yucca

Rick Perry’s nomination to be secretary of energy cleared committee but still needs a Senate confirmation vote, which he is expected to win.

There are conflicting signals on whether he knows what he’s going to do about Yucca Mountain, the site in Nevada’s Nye County that was slated for a dump for high level nuclear wastes. The dump was supposed to open in the 1990s, but vigorous legal opposition from the State of Nevada and, later, the opposition of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid more or less brought the project to a standstill.

When he ran for president in 2012, Perry said Nevada—and all states—should not be saddled with a nuclear waste dump unless it consented. “Allow the states to make the decision,” he said.

Environment & Energy Publishing ran an article headlined “Perry makes no promises on stalled Nev. Project” while the Washington Examiner went with “Perry vows solution to Yucca Mountain impasse.” Platts, a Standard & Poor’s energy newsletter, offered, “Perry says he does not have ‘definitive answer’ on Yucca.”

During hearings on Perry’s confirmation, he told Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, “I am not going to sit here, in front of you in a congressional hearing, and tell you, ‘In no way will Nevada be a recipient of nuclear waste.’”

Perry was once a strong supporter of renewables, particularly wind energy. But energy executive Andy Bowman wrote last week in the Houston Chronicle that after Barack Obama was elected president, “Many Republicans suddenly realized that whatever Obama was for, they were now against. Renewable energy was one of these about-face issues, along with Romneycare and deficit spending, and Republican talking points on wind morphed from energy independence to Solyndra and the unsightliness of turbines. … [Perry] suddenly claimed he opposed not just wind, but all energy tax credits—a laughable position considering his own record.”

New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, whose state contains a deep geological repository for transuranic radioactive waste called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, said on Jan. 31 he would vote against confirming Perry’s nomination. Heinrich, who was born in Fallon, said, “But his past statements on eliminating the department, an unwillingness to commit to the applied energy research and climate science done at our national labs and universities, and the transition team questionnaire that attacked the integrity of climate scientists all signal where the Trump Administration is headed. Given these troubling signs, paired with Trump nominees thus far having said one thing and the administration doing another, I cannot give Gov. Perry the benefit of the doubt.”