Big news in the environmental legislation world: the Senate passed a $34.3 billion energy spending bill yesterday that will cover hundreds of Army Corps of Engineers water projects and allow for the closing of the Yucca Mountain (Nevada) nuclear waste facility. (Obama promised, during his campaign, to close the facility.)
According to an NPR report, the federal government has scrapped plans to open the Yucca Mountain facility, although it is 25 years (and $13.5 billion) in the making. Closing the Yucca Mountain facility will leave the nation without a long-term nuclear waste storage solution. (Radioactive waste is now stored, instead, on nuclear plant grounds [and storage containers] around the country.) A 1987 law requiring that nuclear waste be stored at Yucca Mountain is still on the books, so the facility could, in theory, be re-opened (in which case, the bill affirms, the facility would still receive $196.8 million for work on the site).
The funds will also cover a variety of water, energy, and transportation projects: clean energy research, improvement of mass transit (including the Washington Metro and Amtrak systems), cleaner-fueled buses, airport improvements, high-speed rail systems, and (hotly debated) subsidies for rural air travel. The bill also includes an amendment that will allow for water transfers (from the eastern portion of California’s Central Valley to the western portion of the San Joaquin Valley) to mitigate the effects of drought in the region.
The bill essentially freezes spending for the programs it covers (this distinguishes it most other bills for the 2010 budget year beginning on October 1, which contain spending increases in excess of inflation).