Senate Democrats

Senator Reid Will Not Oppose utah Wilderness Provision

Reid’s concerns about provision remain, but says timing now critical for UT fight against nuclear waste facility

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Harry Reid, the Senate’s Democratic Leader, announced today that he will drop his opposition to a provision that would create a new wilderness area near the Skull Valley Goshute Indian Reservation in Utah. The wilderness designation could potentially prevent the opening of a nuclear waste storage facility on the reservation, something Utah’s elected leaders have fiercely opposed.

Reid has traditionally opposed the provision out of concerns it would set a bad precedent for future wilderness designation. But, after a recent conversation with Utah’s Senator Robert Bennett, Reid agreed to set aside his concerns in order to help the efforts of Sen. Bennett and other state officials to prevent the nuclear site from opening.

“Land use designation is one of the biggest challenges we face in Nevada, where the federal government controls more than 80% of the state’s land,” Senator Reid said. “I have spent my public career working on public lands issues and have come to appreciate that Congress must be very careful in how we approach wilderness designation.

“While I continue to have concerns about the Cedar Mountain wilderness proposal, of even greater concern is the threat posed by deadly nuclear waste. After speaking with Utah leaders, including Sen. Bennett and Governor Huntsman, I have agreed to drop my opposition to this proposal. With the proposed Goshute nuclear waste site moving forward, timing has become critical and the state of Utah will need every available resource to fight this project.”

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently approved the Goshute site as suitable for temporary storage of nuclear waste, a key hurdle for the Private Fuel Storage consortium’s plans to open a facility in the near future. Utah’s elected leaders have vowed to continue fighting the project.

In Nevada, plans for a permanent nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain continue to be delayed indefinitely, putting that project in jeopardy. Reid and Nevada’s other congressional members have fought the project for decades, resulting in successful challenges and continued delays.

Sen. Reid has proposed a more realistic approach to solving the nation’s nuclear waste storage problems by leaving the waste at the sites where it is generated. Reid has been working on gaining support for his proposal. Sen. Bennett recently announced that he would support the idea and with bipartisan support growing, Reid hopes to introduce legislation soon.