Sen. Patty Murray was quick to denounce the Keystone XL Pipeline prior to the Senate’s vote last week. While delivering a Senate floor speech last Tuesday, Murray warned her colleagues against placing “[political] expediency ahead of scientific facts.” In the end, Senate Democrats managed to ensure that the Keystone bill did not pass. The bill fell one vote short of the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster, effectively guaranteeing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landreiu’s defeat in her run-off election.
Murray’s adamant insistence that politics never be placed before science demands the answer to why, when it suits her agenda, our senator has repeatedly done just that. We’re talking about Murray’s stunning failure to lead on Yucca Mountain—known as the safest option to deal with Hanford’s high-level radioactive waste.
Sure, Murray came out swinging in 2010 after President Obama decided to remove Yucca as a possible national nuclear repository site. She questioned Energy Secretary Steven Chu on why Obama “believed Yucca Mountain was not a workable option” during a 2010 March hearing. According to Murray, Chu failed to “give an answer based on scientific merit.”
In 2010, Murray even sponsored an amendment to restore money for the continuation of the Yucca licensing process. Ultimately, though a senator since 1993, Murray did not carry enough political clout to see her amendment through. The amendment failed with every single Democrat—except for, ironically, Landrieu—voting against it, all siding with Sen. Harry Reid’s opposition to Yucca.
But, that was four years ago when, notably, Murray faced re-election. Her willingness to stand up to Democrat leadership and champion what’s right for her state (and the nation) proved short lived. Since 2010, Murray has remained silent on the issue.
It was only last week that Murray reprised her call for the completion of the Yucca project. Murray sent a letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane “praising the NRC for resuming its safety review of Yucca.” Murray concludes her letter by urging that Yucca’s licensing application be “thoroughly considered” by the NRC.
Murray only managed to take action—in the form of a letter to the NRC—following Democrat’s stunning defeat in the 2014 midterms and the waning power of Reid. Before voters offered her an open door forward by soundly rejecting her Democrat counterparts, Murray appeared ready to let Yucca die—sacrificing what is scientifically proven to be best for her state and the nation to a political agenda. Perhaps out of fear of rocking the boat or a desire to please her fellow Democrats, Murray has been doing just what she denounced last Tuesday. She has placed political expediency ahead of science.