RENO — Bullfrog County, population 0, had not even made it into the atlas before Gov. Richard Bryan conceded defeat in his effort to redraw the map to prevent the federal government from forcing a nuclear dump on Nevada.
Atty. Gen. Brian McKay last week said that creation of the county in the high desert 110 miles northwest of Las Vegas violated the Nevada Constitution and that he will abide by the opinion, which does not have the force of law.
Bullfrog County--whose denizens include rattlesnakes, coyotes, lynxes, kangaroo rats and lizards but no humans--is an uninhabited, 144-square-mile tract dotted by sagebrush and scrub grass and carved out of Nye County. It encompasses an area chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy as a potential site for a $2-billion nuclear dump.
Endorsed by Both Sides
Creation of the county in June was backed by Bryan and endorsed by lawmakers opposed to the dump and by those who wanted to assure the state the highest possible return on taxes from the government if the dump is built.
But Nye County, viewing the same tax money, sued, attacking the constitutionality of the law.
"After months of study of this statute, it is clear it violated the Constitution. We will not defend this statute," McKay announced Wednesday.
"Based on the opinion of the attorney general that the creation of Bullfrog County is unconstitutional," the governor said, "I will not defend the Nye County lawsuit against the state of Nevada."
However, Bryan added, he will continue to oppose the location of a high-level nuclear waste dump anywhere in Nevada.
The county was named Bullfrog after an old Nye County mining district that failed in a bid to become a separate county 78 years ago.
It was given a three-member county commission, a county seat 250 miles away in the state capital of Carson City and the highest tax rate allowed under state law.
Had Bullfrog County been selected for the nuclear dump, the U.S. government would have had to compensate the state-run county an estimated $8 million to $25 million a year, officials said.
Democratic Assemblyman Paul May, the prime sponsor of the legislation, said, "I'm a little disappointed, needless to say, and I don't agree with him."
Federal energy officials have said Yucca Mountain in Nye County is one of three sites under consideration for the controversial dump. The other two are near Hanford, Wash., and in Deaf Smith County, Tex.