Thursday, September 06, 2007

Federal Judge Halts Yucca Mountain Project Over Water Rights

Sep 4: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) issued a statement on the ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt regarding the Yucca water bore hole drilling issue. Judge Hunt issued an order on August 31, denying an emergency motion by the Justice Department, that would have blocked an order by the State of Nevada calling for the Department of Energy to stop using the State's water to drill boreholes at the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository site.

Senator Reid said, “Judge Hunt’s ruling confirms what many of us have known for a long time: the federal government will do anything it can to try to turn Nevada into the nation’s nuclear dumping ground, even if that means ignoring the law and the will of the people who would be most affected by the dump. Stealing water, misleading Congress, and ignoring court orders are par for the course for the Energy Department. I am pleased that Judge Hunt upheld Nevada’s right to enforce its water laws. The Energy Department needs to come to grips with the fact that the dump will never be built and begin working on a way to store nuclear waste at the sites where it is produced, instead of an outdated plan to ship 77,000 tons of it across the country to Nevada.”

Nevada State Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said, "Judge Hunt's order vindicates Nevada's long-standing position that DOE's sleight of hand in using Nevada's water for an unauthorized bore hole drilling program is neither mandated by federal law nor consistent with the public's interest. DOE violated a court-sanctioned agreement among the parties and there is no justification for DOE's unlawful actions in clear violation of the State Engineer's order."

The Attorney General indicated in a release that Judge Hunt characterizes as "arrogant," the fact that DOE has not, in the Court's opinion, complied with Nevada water law or "been forthcoming about its intentions for water use in the future." In addition, despite DOE's arguments that such bore hole drilling is required for it to file a license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Court found "no congressional mandate, no legal mandate for bore hole drilling" regardless of the extent of the program which has arbitrarily changed from the "drilling of 44 or 84 bore holes and the use of 4 million or 8 million gallons of water." In fact, Judge Hunt states that he "entertains the suspicion that either DOE wants to look busy, or it wants to keep its contractor occupied during its lengthy delays in filing for a license."

Access the 24-page order from Judge Hunt (click here). Access the statement from Senator Reid (click here). Access a release from the Nevada AG (click here). Access the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects for extensive information (click here). Access a detailed article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal (click here). [*Haz/Nuclear]