Rep. Mark Amodei predicts House will revive Yucca | RecordCourier.com
by Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

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Rep. Mark Amodei predicts House will revive Yucca

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said on Tuesday he fully expects legislation reviving the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump project to be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

"It'll get 400 votes in the House in the 114th Congress," he said in an interview on Tuesday. "It's a bipartisan issue and it's going to come out."

But Amodei said he thinks the plan will stall in the Senate, at least through the tenure of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who will be in the Senate through the end of 2016.

He said the question for him is whether he wants to be one of the 35 "no" votes, without being able to make a difference in the outcome, or use that vote as leverage for some concessions that would benefit Nevada.

"At the top of the list would be reprocessing," Amodei said referring to the potential economic benefits of converting that waste into something useful such as fuel.

He said to open Yucca Mountain as a dump, the land must first be transferred from Bureau of Land Management control to the Department of Energy. If the transfer can be made, he said, "here are some other lands you need to transfer."

That, he said, would include releasing rights to the land needed to build Interstate 11 — the freeway that will eventually connect Las Vegas and Reno. And he called for the transfer of adjacent properties in a checkerboard pattern to state and eventually private control. And he said it would greatly help landlocked communities if federal lands restricting their expansion and growth were released.

"The state would still be north of 80 percent federal land," he said.

Rep. Cresent Hardy, R-Nev., of Pahrump also has indicated he could consider the dump if Nevada were given the appropriate incentives. He said Nevadans may never want the dump to open: "But if the dialogue changes and a discussion is had — and safety standards are overwhelmingly met — we should at least be up for an honest conversation," he said.

Fresh from the annual Lake Tahoe Summit held Monday, Amodei said he's leaning toward backing the bill by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., that would provide $150 million for environmental, transportation and other work in the Tahoe Basin. McClintock's district includes the basin.

That is a much more modest request than the $413 million called for in Sen. Diane Feinstein's bill but, Amodei pointed out, she has brought that type of measure repeatedly with no success in getting it passed.

"I think McClintock is going to get his bill out," Amodei said. "I'm encouraged that we've got a bill that can survive any scrutiny the House brings."

As for Feinstein's plan, he said: "If the Senate wants to pass a $400 million bill and send it to the House, we'll be glad to be on the spot."

Contrary to media reports, Amodei said he's committed to running for re-election in 2016 to his current House seat, not some other office and may run again after that.

"If we are successful as we go through that next term, we'll see what doors are open," he said. "Do you want to stick around, want to keep going to D.C. for another two years. Do I want to go to the private sector or is there an opportunity for elected office at home (in Nevada)?"

He said in part, that depends on what Sen. Dean Heller and Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt have in mind.

"I have to look at all the doors that open in 2018," Amodei said.

He said at that point, he'll have to "carefully evaluate: am I being effective at what I'm doing." If so, another re-election bid might be his decision.

But, Amodei said, "it's no secret that, at some point in time, I'm coming home."