Posts Tagged ‘federal government’

Resolution Seeks Federal Government Discussion Over Water Contamination At Nevada Test Site

By Sean Whaley | 2:44 pm March 15th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada is getting shortchanged from the federal government when it comes to addressing contamination from the underground nuclear weapons testing era, with the Nevada Test Site getting only a small amount of funding for cleanup efforts, a state lawmaker said today.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, testified in support of his measure, Assembly Joint Resolution 5, which seeks discussions with the federal government over much-needed cleanup efforts from years of underground testing of nuclear weapons at the site northwest of Las Vegas that has resulted in massive groundwater contamination.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart/Photo: Cathleen Allison/

The resolution is supported by 19 other lawmakers.

Now called the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), the facility was used from 1951 to 1992 to detonate hundreds of nuclear warheads, most of them underground, Goedhart told the members of the Assembly Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining Committee.

“Each explosion deposited a toxic load of radioactivity into the ground and in some cases directly into the aquifer,” he said. “The underground contamination under the NNSS is the most significant contamination in the country.”

Even so, “the Department of Energy has ranked Nevada at the very bottom of its priority list for cleaning up major sites in the nuclear weapons complex,” Goedhart said. “The test site only receives about $65 million a year out of DOE’s nuclear cleanup budget. Contrast this paltry sum to the $1.8 billion spent annually cleaning up the Hanford plutonium production site in Washington state.”

Nevada’s contamination is 1,000 times worse than at Hanford, he said.

Nye County consulting hydrogeologist Tom Buqo has estimated the underground tests have polluted 1.6 trillion gallons of water, as much as the Southern Nevada Water District is allowed to draw from the Colorado River in 16 years, Goedhart said.

“The federal government needs to ‘man up’ and either clean up, or pay up,” he said.

Darrell Lacy, director of community development for Nye County, also testified in support of the resolution, saying the contaminated waters cannot be used for economic development. When Nye County sought uncontaminated water on and adjacent to the test site, the applications were opposed by the U.S. Dept of Energy. Most of the applications were denied by the Nevada State Engineer, and they are currently on appeal, he said.

The concern is that pumping groundwater might accelerate the movement of contaminated groundwater from the test site, Lacy said.

Goedhart said water is in short supply in Southern Nevada, so having a large amount of it contaminated is a serious economic problem for the region. He could not put a dollar value on the water, saying the intent of the resolution is to raise awareness of the federal government’s inequity to Nye County and Nevada.

Several other speakers, including Kyle Davis, political director for the Nevada Conservation League, and Nancy Scott, representing the League of Women Voters, testified in support of the resolution.

No one spoke in opposition.

The committee did not immediately act on the measure.

Audio clips:

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart says underground testing contaminated groundwater at the Nevada Test Site:

031511Goedhart1 :23 into the aquifer.”

Goedhart says Nevada is at the bottom of the federal government’s priority list for cleanup:

031511Goedhart2 :10 nuclear weapons complex.’

Goedhart says the Hanford site in Washington gets far more money:

031511Goedhart3 :17 in Washington state.”

Goedhart says the federal government needs to clean up the site or pay up:

031511Goedhart4 :05 pay up, thank-you.”



Nevada’s Unemployment Insurance Fund Could Be Insolvent Until 2018

By Andrew Doughman | 2:08 pm January 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s unemployment-insurance benefit fund could be in the red until 2018 as the state continues to borrow from the federal government to keep sending unemployment checks.

To make matters worse, a report today shows a 0.2 percentage point jump in the unemployment rate from 14.3 percent in November, 2010 to 14.5 percent during December.

The state’s Employment Security Council had already raised the unemployment tax rate on businesses from 1.33 percent in 2010 to 2 percent this year to help account for the fund’s deficit. But the tax won’t help pay down the millions of dollars in loans immediately.

“Even with this rate increase, the state will continue borrowing funds to pay benefits,” said Cynthia Jones, Employment Security Division administrator.

Assuming that the average tax rate remains at the 2 percent threshold, Jones said she expects the loan repayment to end in 2018.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, however, has said that he would support the expiration, or “sunset,” of any recent tax hikes.

The Employment Security Council annually recommends a rate based on the financial position of the unemployment benefits trust fund, the impact of any rate change to businesses and the balance of revenue versus expenditures.

Dale Erquiaga, the governor’s senior adviser, said that he’s unsure whether the governor would want to cut the rate back the lower 2010 rate.

Doing so, however, would most likely push the 2018 projection for loan repayment further into the future.

Meanwhile, the federal government is asking states to begin paying interest on the money they’ve borrowed. The loans began accruing interest this month, and the first payment is due this September. For every year that the states still owe money, the rate of that increase will jump 0.3 percent until the loan is paid off.

The state government was able to defer interest payments last year because of provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. But starting this month, those federal loans begin to accrue interest at a rate of 4 percent, said Mark Mathers, senior deputy state treasurer.

In order to pay the interest, lawmakers could authorize a separate, special tax for that purpose. They could also follow state Treasurer Kate Marshall’s idea to levy a bond that would help pay off the interest, thus softening the burden for state businesses.

The governor, however, has promised again and again that he will not increase taxes. Although businesses would become subject to the federal tax this September, the governor said at a Jan. 19 press briefing that $60 million would be allocated to cover the interest payments through the upcoming biennium.

That money, however, would come out of the general fund. This would leave less money for health care, education and other vital state functions in the general fund.

Regardless of whether the employer-rate decreases or increases and leaving unanswered the question of who picks up the tab for the interest payments, the fact remains: Nevada owes the federal government $645 million.

“That financial cost will be with us for several years,” Erquiaga said. “That will be with us, arguably, for the whole time we’re here.”

Chachas: Federal Spending as Illustrated in Pennies

By Elizabeth Crum | 4:08 pm May 4th, 2010

I recently saw a variation of it online, but U.S. Senate candidate John Chachas has put his own spin on a new campaign ad that is now up on YouTube and will also soon be coming to a Nevada television near you.

The idea is that the “law of large numbers” makes it hard to understand the scale of federal spending and borrowing, so the issue is framed and illustrated using stacked pennies on a table.