House lawmakers to visit Yucca Mountain

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this month plan to visit Yucca Mountain, the location where most members of the panel want to build a national nuclear waste repository.

Details of the July 14 visit were still being finalized, according to the committee spokesman.

The visit comes after the House approved legislation in May to restart efforts to build the project, which had been kept dormant by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who retired at the end of his term in 2016.

The overwhelming House vote, 340-to-72, followed a similarly lopsided 49-to-4 vote by the panel last year.

Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican from Illinois, has led the charge to jumpstart the Yucca project. He is chairman of the committee’s Environment Subcommittee.

“We owe it to the 121 communities across 39 states (storing nuclear waste), as well as to every American taxpayer forced to shoulder the daily $2.2 million burden of inaction, to get this done,” Shimkus said in May.

But Yucca opponents, including most of Nevada’s congressional delegation, have argued that it’s too dangerous to transport nuclear waste.

“This proposal requires the construction of almost 300 miles of new railroad tracks to transport the waste, putting more than 123 million lives near the proposed routes at risk,” said Rep. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, in a letter she wrote to appropriators earlier this year. “Such nuclear waste transportation directly threatens individuals living in nearly 330 Congressional Districts.”

Rosen is challenging Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, for his Senate seat and Yucca has become an issue in the campaign with the renewed interest in building the repository, including President Donald Trump putting Yucca funding in his annual budget proposals.

But with Heller’s race expected to be decided by a slim margin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to put Shimkus’ bill on the Senate floor as he looks to protect Heller and his slim Republican majority.

Indy Briefs | The Latest News — State medical pot portal back online, Heller v. Mnuchin, Raiders file papers for Vegas

Nevada’s online medical marijuana registration portal is back up about three weeks after the state found personal information was publicly exposed.

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that the site was restored, but said an investigation into the incident is ongoing.

A Dallas man told KLAS that he was doing a Google search in December when he found that private applications for marijuana industry worker cards were discoverable online. He estimated that nearly 12,000 applications, which included data such as Social Security numbers, were exposed.

The state has noticeably softened its tone about who might be at fault for the event. While state health officials initially declared that they were victim of a cyberattack, the latest statement says the state “was notified that it was vulnerable to a cybersecurity breach” and “the ramifications of the data compromise are as yet unknown.”
Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed two-year budget is calling for $3.5 million to create a new Cyberdefense Center that would help the state detect and respond to cyberattacks. Sandoval’s chief of staff Mike Willden said the state and the sensitive information it keeps are a frequent target for hackers.

---- Michelle Rindels


Sen. Dean Heller got into a feisty exchange with Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin today during a confirmation hearing for the former Goldman Sachs executive.

Heller's questions revolved around the role Mnuchin played at OneWest Bank and the group's role in the foreclosure crisis, which hit Nevada especially hard. Heller said his questions about Mnuchin and the bank have gone unanswered in both public and private meetings with the Secretary.

You can watch the exchange here:

---- Riley Snyder


Harry Reid used to regularly say Yucca Mountain is dead.

Energy Secretary-designee Rick Perry made it clear Thursday morning it’s not quite dead yet.

Under questioning from Reid successor Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in the Energy Committee confirmation hearing, Perry refused to take the nuclear dump site off the table.

“I’m not going to have a definitive answer absolutely, no way in hell….what you need to hear from me is looking at ways to address this issue we have not for 30 years been able to address. If there are legitimate alternatives that keep the people of Nevada happy, that’s even better. I will not sit in front of you in a committee hearing and tell you absolutely no way is Nevada gonna be the recipient of any high-level waste.

But Perry added he will “work with you every day” and said he “managed to get re-elected” despite suggesting Texas should take the waste.

Perry said his goal is to be “wise, thoughtful and respectful. We can find a solution to this, senator.”

Apres Harry….

----Jon Ralston


The Las Vegas Raiders came one step closer to reality Thursday.

Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, a key player in the negotiations with the team, announced on Twitter that the team had filed relocation papers.

“Today we moved one step closer to having an NFL team to call our own,” Sisolak later said in a statement. “This is very exciting for Las Vegas. Many great people have put in a lot of time and effort to get us this far.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has met with Raiders boss Mark Davis and said he is committed, also tweeted about the development:

Still unresolved: Who the Raiders will partner with. Multiple sources have said the relationship between the team and Sheldon Adelson, the prime mover in bringing the team here, has frayed over the money split on the stadium deal. The Raiders have indicated they will come anyhow, and Goldman Sachs has committed to finance the deal.

----Jon Ralston






The Independent Poll: Yucca, stadium taxes unpopular with voters

A photo rendering of the Las Vegas Stadium

Nevada voters oppose renewed efforts to reopen the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site and don’t favor the recently approved hikes in hotel room taxes to help finance a possible NFL stadium in Las Vegas.

Both policies are opposed by large majorities of Nevada voters in the new Independent Poll, which was conducted by the Mellman Group between Jan. 12 and 15. Thirty-three percent of likely voters said they favored storing nuclear waste at Yucca to 58 percent opposed, and a similar 38 percent of voters favored increasing hotel room taxes to pay for an NFL stadium that could potentially house the Oakland Raiders with 55 percent opposed.

Nevada lawmakers narrowly approved raising Las Vegas hotel room taxes by 0.88 percent in a special session of the Legislature in October 2016. Room tax revenue is expected to generate $750 million in bond revenue over 30 years, with the rest of the projected $1.9 billion cost of the stadium covered by the Raiders and the family of billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Raiders owner Mark Davis has supported moving the team to Las Vegas, though any move must be approved by 24 other NFL team owners.

Poll respondents were asked the following question about the stadium:

“As you may know, the Nevada State Legislature recently passed a law to increase the Clark County hotel tax to raise $750 million dollars for a new stadium in Las Vegas to house the Raiders NFL football team. Do you favor or oppose this law?”

Clark County voters were split on the issue with 46 percent in support and 50 percent opposed. Washoe county voters strongly opposed the tax increase (19 to 71 percent) and voters outside those counties opposed it by a 21 point margin(32 to 53 percent.)

Voters under 50 were more likely to support the stadium (46 to 48 percent) than voters over 50 (33 to 59 percent.) Poll respondents across the political spectrum were generally opposed to the measure, including self-identified moderate voters (35 to 58 percent).

The Independent Poll also found Nevada voters opposed storing nuclear waste at the Yucca Mountain facility, which is about 100 miles north of Las Vegas. The facility has long been a sticking point between federal officials and Nevada political leaders, but talk of reviving the facility has festered since the retirement of Sen. Harry Reid and the unclear position of the incoming Donald Trump presidential administration.

Voters were given the following information about the facility, including rotated statements of support and opposition to the facility

“As you may know, there has been renewed discussion about government plans to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert. I am going to read you what some people are saying about this, and then ask whether you favor or oppose putting a nuclear storage facility at Yucca Mountain. Supporters say that the Yucca Mountain program can help develop Nevada’s economy and create thousands of new jobs. Opponents say that transporting and storing nuclear waste is dangerous, and Nevada shouldn’t be our country’s nuclear waste dumping ground.”

After hearing supporting and opposing arguments, 58 percent of voters said they opposed opening the facility including 51 percent “strongly” opposed.  opening the facility, compared to 23 percent “strongly” in favor of opening it. Only a third of poll respondents favor storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, with 23% strongly favoring the plan.”

Female voters were more likely to oppose the site (23 to 68 percent) than men (44 to 48 percent). Voters regardless of party identification opposed the site, but those who identified as Republican had a slightly more positive view (44 to 50 percent) than Democrats (23 to 68 percent.)

Mellman Group CEO Mark Mellman said in an email that Republican support could be explained by the economic argument for opening the site.

“It is possible that the economic development argument does blunt opposition to some extent among Republicans,” he said.

Nevada political leaders largely oppose efforts to revisit Yucca — Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic Rep. Dina Titus have introduced identical legislation designed to make it more difficult for the site to open without explicit approval from the state.

The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted with live interviewers between Jan. 12 and 15, and has a margin of error of 4 percent, with a 95 percent level of confidence.

The Nevada Independent will release more poll results throughout the week, including details on how Nevada voters feel about the pending repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Full poll results and crosstabs will be published on Sunday.

The Mellman Group is an opinion research firm that has done polling for former Sen. Harry Reid, Rep. Steny Hoyer and other political and corporate clients, including many in Nevada. FiveThirtyEight gives the group a “B” grade in their ranking of pollsters and says their polls historically tilt slightly Democratic.

Earlier poll stories:

The Independent Poll: Voters divided over ESAs, support more money for education

The Independent Poll: Sandoval popular, voters mixed on Heller, Laxalt