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April 2000 Planet Main
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  April 2000 Features:
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Livestock Antibiotics Can Threaten Human Health
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The Planet

Yucca Mountain Nuke Waste Plan Stalled

by Jenny Coyle

There weren't enough senators voting "no" to defeat outright the first anti-environmental bill of 2000, but there were enough of them (34) to sustain President Clinton's promised veto - and that's good enough to stall the bill.

At issue in the debate on S. 1287 was which agency would have the authority to set radiation standards - including a critical groundwater standard - for Yucca Mountain, the proposed national repository of nuclear waste in Nevada. Proponents of the bill wanted to the delay the Environmental Protection Agency's authority for a year or take away the agency's authority and give it to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which doesn't think a groundwater standard is needed.

The bill would also have set in motion the transport of waste on roads and rails through 43 states to an interim storage site near Yucca.

Yucca Mountain, 100 miles north of Las Vegas, has been studied as a permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste. The mountain is a 1,200-foot high, flat-topped volcanic ridge extending six miles from north to south. Scientific evidence shows the mountain leaks, which is why a strong groundwater standard is so critical. There have also been significant earthquakes at the Yucca site.

Club activists made phone calls to a host of senators who were wavering up to the last minute on S. 1287. All of these senators voted against the bill, including Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), whose vote marks a divergence from the support his father (the late Sen. John Chafee) gave the bill.

Court Upholds Protection of Roadless Areas

by Jenny Coyle

When timber-industry groups went to court last year to challenge the U.S. Forest Service's 18-month moratorium on road construction in roadless areas, the Sierra Club and 14 other organizations met them there.

The Club's Wyoming Chapter and other groups, represented by Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, sided with the Forest Service - and were successful. A federal judge upheld the moratorium in a January ruling. The moratorium - part of President Clinton's initiative to protect roadless areas on national forests - was imposed in February 1999.

"Protection of roadless areas is really about preserving our last wild places," said Alex Levinson, the Club's national legal director. "Scientists are telling us that the damage roads cause to forest ecology can't be overstated."

Apparently, opponents of roadless areas aren't finished yet. In December, the state of Idaho sued the Forest Service, challenging the federal government's study on whether to protect as many as 60,000 acres of roadless areas in national forests.

"This appears to be a naked attempt by the state to delay the Clinton administration's laudable effort to protect our nation's forests," said Levinson. "The Sierra Club, Earthjustice and other groups have again joined with the Forest Service to defend the roadless-area initiative."

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