News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, May 2, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- An Aiken County lawsuit against the federal government was heard in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Wednesday.
The case is aimed at reversing President Barack Obama's decision to end a nuclear waste repository in Nevada called Yucca Mountain.
"This case boils down to one simple premise, and it's what every third grader in America learns in their civics class: Congress makes laws and the executive branch enforces laws," said South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
News 12 sat down with Wilson in an exclusive interview.
"Two years ago, the administration withdrew its application to the Department of Energy, which was going to implement that law," Wilson said.
That law was the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. It was passed back in 1982 and approved again in 2002. Pre-construction began, but when President Obama took office, the Department of Energy removed its license application and construction stopped.
"Over 25 years, from about 1982 to 2008, we spent $33 billion into the Nuclear Waste Fund," Wilson said.
He says South Carolina rate-payers fronted about $1.4 billion of that. Now, waste at Savannah River Site and Plant Vogtle piles up and that's part of the reason why Aiken County filed suit.
"We've done something that's just unheard of, and I say that with a great deal of sarcasm, we have filed a mandamus action against the federal government requiring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do what they're supposed to do by statute," said the state attorney general.
If successful, Wednesday's hearing would force the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to determine whether the administration broke the law.
"If we don't succeed or prevail here in this case, then we're going to seriously consider another course of action -- that is to sue to recover the monies paid by rate-payers over the past two and a half decades," Wilson said to News 12.
So, if Aiken County's lawsuit fails, South Carolina will likely sue the federal government in an attempt to get the money back.
As for Wednesday's hearings, Wilson says he's cautiously optimistic. He says the facts are on his side but that's never stopped the federal government before.
Tomorrow on News 12 we'll see what the U.S. Congress is doing to re-spark Yucca Mountain, too, and we'll have an update on today's hearing.