2004 Scorecard Vote
The Department of Energy is responsible for cleaning up 253 underground tanks containing approximately 100 million gallons of high-level nuclear waste in Washington state, Idaho, South Carolina and New York. Many of these highly toxic tanks have already begun leaking. In recent years, however, the Energy Department has found a way to leave the waste in these tanks by using an internal rule to "re-classify" high-level radioactive waste as "waste incidental to reprocessing."
In July 2003, a federal district court declared this reclassification system illegal. Nevertheless, the Senate version of the defense authorization bill, S. 2400, included a provision--supported by Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC)--that would allow the Defense Department to reclassify the high-level nuclear waste left in underground storage tanks in South Carolina. Opponents argued that this could abandon millions of gallons of highly toxic waste in leaking underground storage tanks and would set an alarming precedent for similar nuclear waste cleanup sites in Idaho and Washington state. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced Senate Amendment 3261 to strike the provision from the bill. On June 3, 2004, the amendment failed on a 48-48 tie vote (Senate roll call vote 107). YES is the pro-environment vote. While the House version of the bill did not contain the provision, the reclassification system was included in the conference report which was passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law.