Senate Passes Anti-Environmental Nuclear Waste Bill; Industry Supporters Fail to Attain “Veto-Proof” Majority

For Immediate Release: July 31, 1996

Senate Passes Anti-Environmental Nuclear Waste Bill; Industry Supporters Fail to Attain “Veto-Proof” Majority

Millions of dollars of industry lobbying bore fruit today as the Senate voted to slash environmental standards, preempt state law, and force some of the deadliest materials ever created upon Nevada before studies are complete on whether Yucca Mountain in the state is a suitable site for a permanent repository for these materials. While the bill failed to receive enough votes to override President Clinton’s promised veto, many Senators cast aside concern for the environment to satisfy the industry’s whims. “It’s easy to be an environmentalist when you’re worried about burning rain forests half a world away,” Michael Grynberg, Energy Policy Analyst with Public Citizen, said. “The true test is voting your principles when corporate interests in your state want the opposite. While too many Senators failed that test today, enough voted their principles to ensure that this irresponsible bill never becomes law.” S. 1936 contains broad preemptions of federal and state environmental laws. The measure also interferes with the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to issue standards to protect citizens from radiation releases from a repository. Instead the bill sets a lax exposure standard that permits four times the radiation of current storage guidelines and is associated with one excess cancer death for every 286 exposed individuals. The bill’s hostility to sound policy and environmental safeguards earned the legislation a veto promise from President Clinton. Today’s vote demonstrates that the industry will be unable to pass the bill this session. “A majority of Senators decided to look out for the special interests of the nuclear industry,” Bill Magavern, Director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project, said. “Fortunately, President Clinton is looking out for the national interest on this issue.” S. 1936 would also require the taxpayer to assume title to and liability for the deadly garbage that the nuclear industry chose to create. By limiting the user fee earmarked for the nation’s disposal program, S. 1936 leaves taxpayers facing a liability that could reach billions. “No one has presented a valid reason to start shipping waste to Nevada now,” Grynberg said, citing the non-partisan Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board’s recommendation to wait on centralized “interim” storage. “Using citizen safety and taxpayer dollars to subsidize the nuclear industry is corporate welfare of the worst kind.”


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