Nevada gaming, tourism and business leaders want Congress to reject Yucca Mountain funding

April 16, 2019 4:05 AM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
April 16, 2019 4:05 AM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports

A handful of Nevada gaming, tourism and business leaders told Congress on Monday they do not want to see funding allocated for the restart of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository located some 90 miles north of Las Vegas.

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In a letter signed by the top executives of eight gaming companies and the heads of four business and trade organizations, the leadership said they wanted to “express our vehement opposition to the inclusion of funding for the Yucca Mountain” and to “ensure that Yucca Mountain remains part of Nevada’s past and that nuclear waste is never stored anywhere near the world’s entertainment capital and Nevada’s treasured public lands.”

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the Department of Energy included a request for $116 million to restart the federal licensing process to build a nuclear waste dump in the state.

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, and Nevada’s representatives in Congress are vowing to fight to block the request.

In addition to opposing the waste repository near Las Vegas, the state is involved in a legal battled aimed at blocking DOE for shipping weapons-grade plutonium to a site near Yucca Mountain.

The joint letter from the gaming, tourism and business community included the signature of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, who has financially supported Trump and is a strong backer of the President. Earlier this month, Adelson – who has been battling non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and hasn’t been seen in public since December – attended Trump’s keynote address at the Republican Jewish Coalition event at his company’s Venetian resort in Las Vegas.

In addition to Adelson, the letter was signed by MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren, Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith, Penn National Gaming CEO Tim Wilmott, Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox, Caesars Entertainment CEO Mark Frissora, Red Rock Resorts President Richard Haskins, and William Hill US CEO Joe Asher.

Bill Miller, CEO of the Washington D.C.-based American Gaming Association, also signed on to the letter, as did Nevada Resorts Association President Virginia Valentine, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Steve Hill, and Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary Beth Sewald.

Valentine said the group will work with Nevada’s federal delegation to protect the health and safety of Southern Nevada residents and visitors.

“Our members stand together with the community in opposing this dangerous idea that has reemerged in Washington,” Valentine said. “We will continue to make our voices heard on Capitol Hill for as long as our community and economy are at risk.”

The letter stated the effort to restart the Yucca Mountain repository would, “resurrect a project that would so directly imperil the health, safety, and economic future” of Nevada.

The letter cited 2018 tourism numbers of more than 42 million visitors coming to Las Vegas in 2018 and Southern Nevada being home to 2.2 million residents, thousands of whom work in the tourism industry.

“The combination of these factors has a profound impact on the amount of revenue generated for Nevada’s general fund,” the letter stated. “The impacts nuclear waste could have on our visitors and our employees would unquestionably have severe negative implications for Nevada’s future and economic growth.”

In 2017 and 2018, the Republican Senate dropped Trump’s funding for Yucca Mountain, which was designated by Congress in 1987 as the sole site to permanently store nuclear waste.

President Barack Obama shut down the Yucca Mountain project at the urging of then-Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who was the Senate majority leader.

Nevada politicians from both parties opposed the facility.

The state’s two U.S. senators, Catherine Cortez-Masto and Jacky Rosen, both Democrats, oppose licensing the project. Former Sen. Dean Heller, and former Gov. Brian Sandoval, both Republicans, opposed Trump’s efforts to resume plans on the issue.

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.