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Public Input Squelched at Yucca Mountain Hearing

Sept. 6, 2001

Public Input Squelched at Yucca Mountain Hearing

DOE Tactics Effectively Deny Nevada Residents Opportunity to Speak

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? The federal government?s handling of a Wednesday night public hearing in Nevada effectively prevented hundreds of Nevada residents from publicly testifying on a critical matter: the proposed storage of 77,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste near their community.

“Democracy lost today when citizens were denied the right to speak by the Department of Energy?s strong-arm tactics,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “The DOE is ramming this dangerous, ill-conceived plan through, against the will of the Nevada people.”

The poor process and choice of location were evident even before the hearing began, when the auditorium at DOE?s Nevada Operations Office was packed to capacity with 250 people. Many were forced to cram into a nearby cafeteria to watch the proceedings by video, and the cafeteria soon was standing room only. The forbidding DOE facility is surrounded by a tall chain-link fence and lies on an industrial road outside Las Vegas, far from public transportation. In Las Vegas, though, there are a number of auditoriums that would have been more accessible and could have handled the crowd.

The hearing was required by law for the project to move forward. Those present who wished to speak were told by DOE officials that if they had not registered by phone ahead of time, they would have to wait hours to speak. This last-minute change effectively denied hundreds of Nevada residents an opportunity to air their views; many left before speaking because it was so late. Meanwhile, pro-dump people ? many from other states ? had signed up to speak first.

“Nowhere in the Federal Register or other public notices were Nevada citizens informed they had to register ahead of time,” Hauter said. “This is after the DOE gave only nine business days notice for a hearing 20 years in the making, then abruptly changed the location and listed an incorrect address on public notices of the new hearing location. This pattern of Machiavellian tactics cannot, will not, and must not be accepted in America.”

Former Nevada Sen. Richard H. Bryan, Nevada?s GOP Governor Kenny Guinn, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman joined Public Citizen in denouncing the DOE?s underhanded tactics. Public Citizen also rejected the DOE?s 15-day public comment extension as inadequate.

“The DOE should not strong-arm Nevadans,” Hauter said. “An issue of this magnitude ? the storage of America?s high-level nuclear waste ? demands rigorous scrutiny and transparent deliberations. The DOE is denying the American people their right to have a say in how dangerous nuclear waste will be stored for hundreds of thousands of years.”