Las Vegas Sun

January 31, 2015

Currently: 49° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account


Spokesman changes his tune on Yucca Mountain — because he must

Greg Lemon spinning the opposite direction with Joe Heck’s team after stint with congressman who advocated for the nuclear waste site

Every time politicians here talk about storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, the usual suspects turn to their well-rehearsed talking points. Republican lawmakers, especially those from nuclear-rich Illinois and South Carolina, harp on the need for a single repository for spent fuel rods and Nevada’s delegation talks about Yucca’s shortcomings as a radioactive burial ground.

Politicians’ positions are carefully crafted and articulated, over and over again, by their press secretaries.

But sometimes those spokesmen have to quickly change their tunes.

Take Greg Lemon. Until a few months ago, he was the press secretary for Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, writing public statements for one of Congress’ most outspoken Yucca waste dump advocates.

Now he’s the chief spokesman for Nevada Rep. Joe Heck, who’s completely opposed to the idea of carting nuclear waste into Nevada.

“It definitely wasn’t brought up in the interview process,” Lemon said with a chuckle. “At some point shortly after accepting the job it kind of dawned on me. ... Now I’m on the other side.”

And what a different view it is.

Click to enlarge photo

Joe Heck is photographed at his offices in Las Vegas Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010.

When Yucca last came up, Kirk was the lawmaker publicly warning Nevada that its non-nuclear days were numbered, predicting a change in the Senate majority and the resumption of Yucca construction it would bring.

Heck, on the other hand, was trying to persuade his House colleagues to turn Yucca into a research park instead of a dumping ground.

That happened last year, so Lemon hasn’t really had a chance to test out his newly adopted Yucca loyalties — except when he occasionally gets ribbed by his colleagues for his history.

But now that Yucca’s heating up again — at least in the House — Lemon is preparing to dive into Yucca by “not approaching it any differently than any other issue.”

Lemon is from Delaware, a state that has never been on a short list to host a nuclear waste dump and has never had a nuclear power plant. That background lets him avoid having any overriding personal interest in Yucca Mountain, though he says he respects the “very strong feelings” that he’s observed on all sides of the issue — in Nevada especially.

“If Yucca was in any other state, folks from that state would have very similar feelings to folks from Nevada about the project,” he said.

Even if some lawmakers believe Nevada has to take the hit so the rest of the country can have nuclear power — and even if he worked for one of them — Lemon said he plans to stick up for the anti-Yucca set as long as he’s with Heck.

“In Illinois, they’re supportive of the Yucca project because of their situation [being dependent on nuclear energy] ... so if Kirk’s going to be an effective representative, he’s going to support it. But if Joe Heck’s going to be an effective representative of his constituency, it makes sense he opposes it,” Lemon said.

“I think that what Nevadans feel about Yucca is a perfectly reasonable position,” he added.

Doesn’t sound quite passionate enough? Well, give him time — he’s barely been in Nevada’s orbit for two months and admits that when it comes to Yucca, he’s still treading carefully while he absorbs just how passionately people approach this issue.

“In any new job, there’s always a new regional, state or local matter you take on,” he said. “But I’m not going to all of a sudden forget that I’m in Heck’s office and not in Kirk’s office. It’s nothing like that.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 4 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. See how easy it is for a Republican to flip-flop when money is involved..

  2. "Heck, on the other hand, was trying to persuade his House colleagues to turn Yucca into a research park instead of a dumping ground."

    I don't know about anyone else, but I am very apprehensive about someone who changes his positions pretty much the same way the wind blows.

    Mr. Heck, along with any Tea/Republican Party politician, has not impressed me about any type of sustained opposition on Yucca Mountain Project (YMP). From all indications, Mr. Heck is only making this stance because it's election time coming soon. If people mistakenly elected that bum back into power in CD3, I guarantee he will flip flop and go back to the "research" crap position he once advocated before. The lure of the money is too great.

    People need to understand that the composition of this entire Tea/Republican Party nowadays is made up of extreme and radical politicians who are only in this stuff for the money. Regarding YMP, public safety is not in their interest. Only corporate welfare and raking in bucks for their insatiable campaigns.

    Inside or outside of Nevada, don't matter where these Tea/Republicans come from, they ALL think that way. If they see an opening on YMP to make it go forward, they will.

    That is why Heck, Amodei, Heller and those Nye County Commissioners with their stupid letter they sent are all in the target sights for being elected out of office. We must hold their feet to the fire. Any stance on YMP that advocates the nation's nuclear trash be sent to Nevada, even the slightest hint, they need to know this is political suicide.

    Recently, in the Tea/Republican Primary in South Carolina, it is down on the official record that Mitt Romney, when questioned by Governor Haley about YMP, he emphatically assured her they will open it in order to ship copious amounts of South Carolina's nuclear garbage here to Southern Nevada.

    That is the EXACT reason why Mitt Romney will get crushed here in Southern Nevada. He might win a primary here with a small amount of Tea/Republicans, but the voters on the whole here will pulverize him for this stance on YMP. He is irrelevant. And he is totally and completely ignorant and stupid if he thinks he's going to get people to vote for him when he advocates the most dangerous substance known to mankind be stored FOREVER here near our homes in Southern Nevada.

    I'm sorry, but I don't trust any of them two faced politicians in the Tea/Republican Party. Because it has been proven time and time again that they will get you to vote for them and immediately turn around and do the opposite what they campaigned for.

  3. The only reason that Heck got elected was because he wasn't Dina Titus. No one actually has any faith in him being able to get any thing done, let alone work in the best interest of the people he represents. There was a big push by the GOP that election to oust Harry Reid, so the increased republican turnout is probably what got Heck elected. It failed of course to defeat Reid because of the extremely poor candidate choice they chose.

    Joel Heck, Sharon Angle, and Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald are perfect examples of what has gone wrong with the GOP: Democrats will position candidates for elections to try and take control the small local clusters, and then worry about the power base they've created. They do this by choosing candidates that can relate to the local constituency. Republicans are solely focused on the power base itself and only choose candidates whom they think can take elections away from Democrats. Sure it works sometimes, but the problem is that it's only a short gain. Here's why:

    Republican vs. Democrat. GOP base turns out and gets Republican candidate elected. GOP then shifts candidate's focus away from the community which they represent in order to serve the national/Washington D.C. power base in order to strengthen their control. Due to neglect, communities resent republican lack of action and leadership and then switch to Democratic candidate the next election. Then the GOP wonders why they're losing so much power. The worst part of it is that their conservative base only has the fact that their candidates simply are not Democrats as the only rallying point in most cases. This causes a ton of conflict and dissidence within the party. This is why the GOP has started to fracture into Libertarians, Constitutionalists, Independents, and most recently the Tea Party not to mention others.

    Democrats on the other hand have not split apart as much. And that is very much because they're playing an entirely different game. If the GOP would stop being so concerned about controlling the government and more concerned with building better community strongholds by putting up long-term candidates to instill voter loyalty rather than plastic-candidates whose sole purpose is to defeat opponents, things would be much different. You wouldn't see letters worrying about Ron Paul taking away Mit Romney's delegates. You wouldn't see millions of dollars and credibility lost by pumping so much effort into Sharon Angle's campaign. And you certainly wouldn't see turncoats like Joel Heck so easily switching their position. People liked G.W. Bush and Reagan because they were hard-headed and stubborn. The DON'T like puppets like Heck whose sole interest is to do whatever his peers in Washington D.C. tell him, rather than provide what it is that his constituents need, let alone stand behind his word stubbornly.

  4. Enjoyed your comment, DMCVEgas. I couldn't have said it better.

    That fits in line with what I was trying to say: I, nor anyone else, should be fooled by the flip flop position out there by all of the Nevada Tea/Republicans regarding this Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) position.

    They were all emphatically for shipping nuclear trash to Nevada. But then, they did something that was unbelievable. Especially in the nowaday political volatile climate.

    They actually paid attention to the outcry from constituents.

    Then they half-heartedly back tracked. As evidenced by Heck's position about YMP should be used for "research."

    Then there was more backlash from the constituents.

    All of a sudden, because an election is looming, Heck changes his mind and is against it. And what's even more preposterous is that he thinks everyone has selective amnesia by osmosis, and he pretends he had that position from the beginning.

    All the other Tea/Republicans in Nevada are doing the same exact thing. Whereas on the other side of the aisle, every single Democrat has been against YMP from the beginning.

    I am so glad I am now out from under the hell world Heck envisions for Southern Nevada. Due to new re-districting, I am now in CD1.

    But I hope everyone in CD3 sees Heck as the hack he is. He is just a political opportunist. Look at his voting record! He falls in line with what Boehner wants, not Southern Nevada.

    To Heller with Heck and to Heck with Heller.