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What Matters to Jeb Bush, Yucca Mountain and Media Matters

casaenergyIT’s way too early in the cycle to talk about the presidential candidates’ energy policy formulations – heck, we may not have the majority of them announced as candidates yet. Consider, then, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, one of those candidates who has not yet announced.

The Associated Press and Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush spoke out against the proposal to bury nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain, without mentioning Bush's ties to a nuclear industry group that actively supports the project.

Really, a nuclear energy group? Which one?

What the AP and Review-Journal left out, however, is that Bush is currently listed as a member of a nuclear industry group called the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy), which has long advocated for Yucca Mountain -- and continues to do so. As recently as February 24, CASEnergy published a blog post declaring Yucca Mountain a "scientifically safe and sound option" for storing nuclear waste permanently, and "a critical component" of the nation's shift to nuclear energy.

Well, CASEnergy didn’t declare that – the NRC did and CASEnergy is reporting it (approvingly, but still.) 

To be fair, Media Matters is right that CASEnergy supports Yucca Mountain:

The key elements of a U.S. used fuel management policy include flexible interim storage approaches, the licensing and construction of an underground repository at Yucca Mountain, and facilities for recycling used nuclear fuel to take advantage of the maximum energy from the fuel in a manner that includes effective safeguards against nuclear proliferation.

But here’s the thing: CASEnergy has no loyalty oath asking its members to support nuclear energy in all of – or even any of - the specific issues the group advocates. To be fair, Media Matters is not characterizing CASEnergy as having a politically ideological mission – but it is suggesting that it wants a certain purity from its members. Which it doesn’t – at all.

In this regard, a comment from CASEnergy Co-Chair Christine Todd Whitman at the Nuclear Energy Assembly struck me:

I would like a national energy policy that says we want clean, green, reliable, affordable energy and leave it at that. And let the marketplace figure out the best ways to meet those goals.

Now, obviously, Whitman advocates for nuclear energy – read her comments in the post below this one – but that doesn’t sound like a person with a purity test, does it?

So if Gov. Bush does not support Yucca Mountain, fine. He’s still a member of CASEnergy in good standing.

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One further niggle with the Media Matters report:

Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston first detailed Bush's ties to the pro-Yucca industry group in March, in a blog post in which he wrote that Bush "was once part of a front group for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the main lobbying entity behind siting a repository at Yucca Mountain."

Front group?  NEI created CASEnergy to provide a vehicle for individuals to advocate for nuclear energy – NEI itself is geared toward corporate membership. You could say Media Matters stumbled into a mire with this one. Gov. Bush says he doesn’t support Yucca Mountain and CASEnergy has no brief on anything Gov. Bush says or does regarding nuclear energy. But Media Matters thinks it ought to.

Why? What does that say about Media Matters?

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