Reid calls president a liar
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid used Lake Tahoe as a backdrop Saturday to blast President Bush’s decision to send the nation’s nuclear waste to Nevada.
“I thought this would be an appropriate place to talk about an issue that’s important to me because this is where Bush came when he campaigned in Nevada,” Reid said, standing on an observation deck at Heavenly Ski Resort.
The Democrat said Bush “would not be president today” if Nevada citizens had known what was in store for Yucca Mountain. The site is north of Las Vegas, the fastest-growing city in the United States.
“(Bush has) left the country, and he thinks this (issue) will be gone when he gets back, but it won’t be,” Reid said.
The Nevada senator called Bush “a liar” because the Texas governor vowed in a television commercial during the 2000 presidential election campaign that he would not approve any waste site “unless it’s been deemed scientifically safe” and that “sound science, not politics, must prevail.” Reid scoffed at that declaration, saying the U.S. Department of Energy did not properly consider environmental impacts or the security risk posed by transporting the 77,000 tons of waste stockpiled at U.S. nuclear plants and defense facilities.
Reid said he’s also concerned that, given Bush’s close ties to the energy industry, Friday’s decision may represent a precursor to future nuclear energy development.
“No doubt that weighed in part on his decision,” he said.
For Republicans in Nevada — where virtually everyone agrees the dump ought to be somewhere else — the situation became especially precarious as they sought to distance themselves from the decision, but not alienate the GOP president.
“I’m very disappointed, although not surprised,” said Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., holding back his criticism of Bush, but aiming instead at the Energy Department which he said “has been hellbent on shoving waste into our backyard, regardless of what science and common sense shows.”
Bush, in a letter to congressional leaders Friday, said he approved the go-ahead for the Yucca Mountain project because a central repository “is necessary to protect public safety, health and this nation’s security.”
The debate over the proposed Yucca Mountain waste repository now moves to Congress, which will decide whether to uphold the president or side with Nevada. It could all be decided this fall — just before election time.
Reid thinks the decision will “make a tremendous difference in the House.” He’s relying on Congress to halt the move, but he needs 218 votes in the House and at least 51 in the Senate to do so.
As expected, the state of Nevada led by Gov. Kenny Guinn has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the decision.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.