Nye County, Nevada is one of the largest counties in the country, however 93% of the land in the county is owned by the federal government. Nye County, Nevada is home to the Nevada Test Site as well as many lands regulated by the Federal Bureau of Land Management. The Federal Government would also like to make it the home of the first repository for high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.
Do the citizens of Nevada and Nye County have a right to fight the placement of this repository near their homes? In 1989, the Nevada State Legislature passed two resolutions expressing “adamant opposition to the placement of a high-level nuclear waste repository in the State of Nevada” (Klein, Cheever, Birdsong, 2009). In addition, the Nevada State Legislature also passes a bill making it illegal to store high-level radioactive waste in Nevada. These resolutions were rejected by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, who found that the statute was preempted by federal law.
The project is stopped for now due to the decision in Nuclear Energy Institute v. Environmental Protection Agency 373 F.3d 1251 (D.C. Cir. 2004), which found that the EPA did not comply with radiation standards for certain waste to be deposited in Yucca Mountain.
Some questions to think about here are:
1. Is Nevada being treated equally to all of the other states when the Federal Government owns 82.9% of the lands in the State?
2. Should the federal government have to work with states and local communities when deciding how to use federal public lands, especially when it has to do with public health and safety?
Klein, C. et. al. Natural Resources Law: A Place-based book of problems and cases. 40-42 (2nd ed. 2009).