During the heated 2008 Democratic primary, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama said that they opposed dumping nuclear waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. But in an effort to gain traction in the western swing state, Clinton aired ads highlighting donations to Obama from employees at Exelon, a company that has long pushed using Yucca as a repository.
But as veteran Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston notes in a column at the Reno Gazette-Journal, the shoe is on the other foot eight years later, as it is Clinton who has financial ties to lobbyists and campaign bundlers who would really like to dump waste at Yucca, which is located about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Though Obama said he was adamantly “anti-Yucca” — or against dumping material there — Clinton and company aired radio ads during the 2008 primaries citing campaign contributions Obama received from Exelon employees in order to imply that he would end up changing his position.
“And Barack Obama? The Las Vegas Review Journal said Obama was, quote, ‘hip deep in financial ties’ to one of America’s biggest Yucca Mountain promoters: nuclear giant Exelon,” the radio spot asserted.
Ralston notes that while Clinton still claims to be anti-Yucca, he believes she has left herself some wiggle room to change her position.
“Well, it’s off the table now based on what I know. I think science is always changing. But based on what I know, where it is, the geology of where it is, it’s off the table,” Clinton told Ralston in a recent interview.
But Ralston isn’t convinced.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d think Madame Secretary was opening the door a crack to changing her previous position,” he writes.
The reporter has legitimate reason to worry about a Clinton flip-flop. First, Nevada U.S. Sen. Harry Reid will retire after the 2016 election removing a staunch and powerful opponent to the Yucca proposal, which Congress approved in 2002. Second, Clinton has shown a willingness to change her position on a host of other hot-button issues, including gay marriage, immigration, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The donations from Yucca backers and connections to lobbyists for pro-Yucca firms are an additional cause for concern for Ralston, whose opposition to Yucca is in line with the position of most other Nevadans.
The Nuclear Energy Institute, which is leading the push to dump nuclear waste at Yucca, has paid the Clinton-linked Podesta Group $540,000 in lobbying fees since 2012.
The superlobbyist raked in another $330,000 since 2013 from Bechtel Corp., another firm that wants to dump nuclear waste in Nevada.
The Podesta group is operated by Tony Podesta, a major Clinton campaign bundler. John Podesta, who co-founded the firm with his brother, is the chairman of Clinton’s campaign.
As The Daily Caller reported in April, the Podesta Group has also lobbied on behalf of Uranium One, a company owned by Russia’s energy agency, Rosatom. Clinton’s State Department approved a deal allowing the company to mine for uranium, giving control of 20 percent of the U.S.’s uranium reserves to the Russians. (RELATED: Firm Co-Founded By Hillary’s Campaign Chair Lobbies For Russia’s Uranium One)
Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff also recently reported that the Saudi government hired the Podesta Group earlier this year to lobby on its behalf.
Ralston notes that four other Clinton campaign bundlers are connected to a trade association that backs the Yucca effort, the Edison Electric Institute. And one of those bundlers, Justin Gray, once lobbied for Exelon, the very same company that Clinton sought to nail Obama to eight years ago.
Clinton’s Nevada campaign chairman told Ralston that Clinton stands by her Yucca position.
“Hillary voiced concerns about Yucca Mountain in 2008 and continues to have those same concerns today,” Tim Hogan told him.
“She believes it’s critical that we find a long-term solution for nuclear waste currently being stored on-site at nuclear power generation facilities. But no community should have a waste repository facility forced upon them, and if Nevadans are opposed to Yucca Mountain, then it’s off the table. Based on the science and geology of Yucca Mountain, Nevadans oppose designating it a nuclear waste site, and so does Hillary.”