I drive around this valley and I often think to myself, what a pretty place.
The mountains and the sky and the wide open spaces are great. I like the weather and the people and the wildlife. I like that I live just far enough from a big city to enjoy its amenities, but can leave the headaches that come with living in one behind.
Pahrump is idyllic in a lot of ways. It really is.
The only real problem here, in this valley, is the economy. Sure, there’s some social issues. Violence and drugs among them that are a little too prevalent for such a pretty place. But that’s America these days, it seems.
Even many of these social problems are rooted in economics.
I think many agree, we could use some money around here, some industry, some jobs. Pahrump can’t all be retirees, and it can’t be all rural poverty either. It also can’t just be a tourist destination, though we welcome friendly visitors with open arms.
Pahrump and its 36,000 people need something more.
The dilemma for us is the difficulty in attracting business and industry here. It is not that easy, particularly when business isn’t growing much except on Wall Street, and especially when Pahrump is competing with so many similarly situated small towns doing exactly the same things to lure new commerce.
This is why I think county officials and many locals, including me, disagree with Sen. Harry Reid and President Barack Obama and Gov. Brian Sandoval.
We disagree that Yucca Mountain isn’t a good idea.
It is the one asset — everyone around here who has thought about it for a few seconds comes to realize this — that can pull this area’s economy out of a sinkhole. It is the one asset that can create jobs overnight, spur new business, new housing and development and inject new dollars and lots of them right into the community. It really is.
And not just beneficial to Pahrump, it’s a boon for Nevada, a state with so little economic diversification that our financial destinies are firmly linked to Chinese gamblers, commodity prices and Southern California party-goers more than almost anything else. Lose one and the whole state falls off a cliff.
But Yucca Mountain offers a way out of that predicament. If you believe some reports, it offers a $5.6 billion way. And that’s just for starters.
So like many of our local politicians, I too was happy to see the Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit find in favor of this county and the other parties involved in forcing the Yucca issue to move forward. The ruling handed down this week doesn’t guarantee anything. But what it does do is put the people who have been using Yucca Mountain — and your economic future — as political theater on notice.
The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 to order the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to restart the licensing process for Yucca Mountain. Why? Because it’s the law and the commission, run by political appointees of the all-mighty Senate majority leader, has simply broken the law by not doing its job.
The judges had this case last year at this time and could have made a decision then. But the argument was that Congress, though it hadn’t done so at that time, really, really, really was, cross our hearts and hope to die, going to nix Yucca altogether.
One year later and that proved not true. Actually, since then a plan has been put in place by this administration to ask communities around the country to express any interests they might have in hosting such a facility. Some have. Ours did and continues to.
Weighing in our favor? The multi-billion dollar hole in the ground that sits padlocked up the road.
I actually agree with Commissioner Dan Schinhofen on this one. I agree that from this county’s standpoint, I want to see the science. I want to see the licensing process finished. If the science says Yucca is unsafe, then maybe I will rethink my position, too. But until then, how could anybody with a clear conscience simply walk away from the sort of fortune Yucca represents to this area’s economy. That would be stupid.
Before Yucca closed, 2,000 highly paid people were working on the project. Millions and millions of dollars were flowing into local treasuries. Since it’s been padlocked, and especially since the recession, this area has suffered and will continue to suffer.
Another reason I am all for continuing Yucca is that I strongly feel it is this region’s legacy to be the premier nuclear laboratory for the country. Southern Nevada is already home to multiple military installations, some top secret. It’s home to a nuclear security site where nuclear waste is already being stored. And furthermore, there is a rich history of nuclear testing right in our own backyard — just ask the old-time ranchers who would get up early to watch the tests light up the still-dark morning sky or the casino marketers who boasted that players could see the mushroom clouds from their hotel rooms.
As pretty as this place is, unspoiled Garden of Eden it isn’t. (And no, that doesn’t mean I care to despoil this pretty place any more.)
Turning our backs on Yucca Mountain is akin to turning our backs on this area’s own heritage.
Embracing that heritage, building a foundation for prosperity upon it, and doing so safely and responsibly is the best and really only course I see on this matter.
Everything else is just a bunch of political BS, conjured up in the halls of power, comprehensible only to those who play such games, and likely for no one’s benefit but theirs and probably some hidden special interests that have never and will never benefit this community one iota.
I like Harry Reid. I like President Obama. I generally agree with them on many issues. And I’m sure Sandoval will make a fine governor someday. But they are all wrong on Yucca. And we suffer for it. Let’s hope that changes and changes soon.