Bureaucrats have to follow the law even when they disagree with it, the D.C. Circuit Court reminded the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday after it ignored a congressional statute because of opposition to the underlying policy.
NRC has refused to finish reviewing the application for storing nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain, Nev. “Congress sets the policy, not the Commission,” a three-judge panel noted in 2-1 decision that the commission has to let the application proceed. “To reiterate, the president and federal agencies may not ignore statutory mandates or prohibitions merely because of policy disagreement with Congress.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is not impressed. “With no disrespect to the court, this decision means nothing,” Reid said, per the Las Vegas Review Journal. “Yucca Mountain is an afterthought.”
He was even less diplomatic when he criticized three judges on the D.C. Circuit as “terrible,” a group that includes one of the judges who ruled against the NRC, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.
“We put on three people — I don’t think they deserve to be on any court, but they — we put them on there, and they have been terrible,” Reid said on Nevada Public Radio, as Roll Call noted. “They’re the ones that said … the president can’t have recess appointments which we’ve had since this country started. They’ve done a lot of bad things, so we’re focusing very intently on the D.C. Circuit.”
Not all legislators share Reid’s feeling. ”Last month, 335 House members, including the majority of Democrats, voted to boost funding for the license review in the energy and water appropriations bill. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus, R-Ill., said in a joint statement.
“Our great system of checks and balances will ensure the law is carried out, and we will soon know once and for all whether Yucca Mountain is safe,” they continued. “Ultimately, our goal continues to be the safe permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel, giving states and communities the certainty they need. This decision will help re-start the important work toward a resolution.”