Press Releases

Heller Worked to Ensure Funding for Yucca Mountain was Excluded from Senate Bill 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate today approved its Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill, which included two of U.S. Senator Dean Heller’s (R-NV) provisions to increase accountability at the VA and support Nevada’s veterans as well as Heller’s amendment based on S.2539, legislation that he previously introduced to improve southern Nevada’s water supply and security by reauthorizing the Colorado River System Conservation Pilot Program (CRSCPP) for four years. Heller also worked with the U.S. Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee to ensure that the appropriations package excluded funding requested by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to support and fund licensing activities at the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository.

A senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Heller has worked to see that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) effectively operates the VA Caregiver Program, which provides a stipend to family members of disabled veterans in need of home health care. Heller’s amendment included in the appropriations package would ensure that the VA Caregiver Program has the staffing necessary in Reno, Las Vegas, and across the country to provide the attention and support these veterans and their caregivers deserve. Earlier this year, Heller and U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) contacted Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie urging a retrospective review of the eligibility determinations of caregivers who were discharged from the program. The letter is available HERE.

In addition to increasing oversight of the VA Caregiver Program, Heller also has a record of enhancing accountability for the VA’s use of resources to help end veteran homelessness. The appropriations package also includes an amendment that Heller filed with U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) to prohibit the VA from transferring any funds out of the VA’s homeless veteran programs. Heller has repeatedly fought back against the VA’s repurposing of funds from VA programs designed to assist homeless veterans. In a December 2017 letter to former VA Secretary David Shulkin, Heller doubled down on his opposition and urged Shulkin to stop the VA’s proposal to redirect funding intended to help the homeless veteran population. The letter is available HERE. In April of 2018, he requested that the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies provide robust funding to the Supporting Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program, the Grant and Per Diem (GDP) Program, and case management and supportive services as administered by the VA because these programs are central to federal efforts to end veteran homelessness. The letter is available HERE.

“Taking care of Nevada’s 300,000 veterans is one of my most important responsibilities, and I’m proud that this legislation includes my measures aimed at increasing accountability for the VA’s Caregiver Program that supports disabled veterans as well enhancing oversight of the VA’s use of funding to address homelessness among veterans,” said Heller. “I also successfully advocated for the $1.8 billion in funding included in this legislation to help end veteran homelessness and for the protection of funding for Filipino veterans. Taking care of veterans who are struggling to get back on their feet remains one of my top priorities, and I will continue fighting for them each and every day.”

Heller also secured his amendment to reauthorize the CRSCPP for four years. Established by Congress to conserve water and mitigate the impact of droughts in the Colorado River Basin, which includes southern Nevada, the CRSCPP compensates holders of water rights along the basin for using less water. The CRSCPP has conserved nearly 143,000 acre feet of water since its inception in the Lower Basin alone and without Congressional action, the program is slated to expire in September 2018. Reauthorizing the program is critical for southern Nevada as the region receives nearly 90 percent of its water supply from the Colorado River, serving over 2 million residents in Clark County and over 42 million visitors per year.

“Southern Nevada is no stranger to drought, and that’s why I continue to fight for policies that strengthen our state’s water security and infrastructure,” said Heller. “My amendment reauthorizes Colorado River System Conservation Pilot Program, which is particularly important at a time when the surface of Lake Mead continues to fall year after year and as the Basin supplies water to 90 percent of Southern Nevada. I’m proud that my measure was included in the appropriations package that the U.S. Senate approved today, and I’m hopeful that it will be soon be signed into law.

Heller has a long history of authoring and supporting legislation to improve the water supply in Nevada and address emergency drought situations across Western states. In 2016, the U.S. Senate adopted an amendment to the Energy and Water appropriations bill that was filed by Heller and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) to increase funding for CRSCP by $50 million. The Pilot System Conservation Program was authorized under Sec. 206 of the Energy and Water appropriations bill of 2015. Additionally, in 2014, the Senate passed the Emergency Drought Relief Act, legislation introduced by Heller, Reid and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that requires federal agencies to maximize water supplies, reduce project review times and ensure water is directed to users whose need is greatest. 

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