Heller Continues Energy Nomination Block Over Yucca Concerns

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By Brian Dabbs

Deputy Energy Secretary nominee Dan Brouillette hasn’t responded to questions about plans for permanent nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) says, so he is keeping a hold on Brouillette’s nomination.

Heller, an opponent of Yucca Mountain, asked the questions nearly two months ago. He said he’d keep the hold until they are answered.

The hold, an informal Senate tactic which requires leadership to go through legislative hurdles to confirm a nomination, adds another layer of burden to a sluggish nomination process. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in Aug. 1 remarks on the Senate’s agenda before August recess, didn’t mention any plans to vote on Energy Department, Interior Department, or Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nominees.

‘It’s Up to Him’

Heller peppered Brouillette with questions in a letter June 6 on the nominee’s position on Yucca as a permanent repository and his support for consent-based siting of such a facility.

“Until we get clarifications on the questions, we’re going to continue to hold,” Heller told Bloomberg BNA. “It’s up to him. He’s just got to answer the questions that we sent to him.”

The White House and the Energy Department didn’t respond to Bloomberg BNA requests for comment.

The Nevada congressional delegation largely opposes the permanent repository, arguing the project presents risks to the environment and surrounding communities. Congress originally directed construction of a storage facility at Yucca Mountain in 1982, but regulatory hiccups and political opposition has prevented operations since then.

A bill sponsored by Heller (S. 95) would require any such facility to first receive consent from the state’s governor, Indian tribes and local governments. Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-Nev.) opposes a repository at Yucca.

Prior to his nomination, Brouillette lobbied for Ford Motor Co. and Washington lobbying firms following a stint at the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Energy Department under President George W. Bush.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Dabbs in Washington at bdabbs@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

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