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October 24, 2014

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Gibbons criticized for downsizing Yucca agency

Democrats say it’s the wrong time to make cuts

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Sam Morris

Atop Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, signs warn of possible radiation near a test well.

Yucca Mountain

The U.S. Energy Department plans to store spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, an extinct volcano about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

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CARSON CITY – Democratic lawmakers on Thursday criticized the governor’s plan to cut staff at the state agency responsible for battling the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

In the budget he unveiled last week, Gov. Jim Gibbons called for staff at the state Nuclear Projects to be cut from seven to two.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who said the cuts will hamper the fight against Yucca Mountain at a critical point, said "We’re on the verge of winning and now is not the time to slash litigation” money.

The remarks were made during Senate and Assembly money committees hearings on the governor’s budget, which began today. During the morning session, Democratic lawmakers repeated their criticisms of the Gibbons’ slimmed down budget.

State Budget Director Andrew Clinger told the Senate Finance and the Assembly Ways and Means committees that most of the office’s budget is spent on outside contracts, which the staff monitors.

Leslie then asked if two employees could do the work of seven. Clinger answered, “Yes.”

Josh Hicks, chief of staff for the governor, softened the stance somewhat by saying that once newly appointed director Bruce Breslow “gets his arms around” the operation, there may be a need for additional money. Breslow replaces Bob Loux, who resigned amid controversy over raising his and his staff’s salary without authorization.

Leslie said funds for the legal fight in the Attorney General’s office have been cut.

But Hicks said there is $93,000, the same amount the office has this year. He said this was “sufficient” and he quoted U.S. Sen. Harry Reid who believes President Obama will not continue funding Yucca Mountain.

Cy Ryan may be reached at (775) 687 5032 or [email protected].

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