Alteration of Papers on

Yucca Mountain Denied

A scientist at the center of a controversy over the potential falsification of documents about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump told Congress yesterday that he did not alter paperwork on the project.

"I have never falsified any documents related to Yucca Mountain or any other project," Joseph Hevesi, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist in Sacramento, told a House Government Reform subcommittee.

The panel is investigating e-mails written by Hevesi and other scientists that, according to critics, seem to suggest they changed paperwork to reach a predetermined conclusion. The existence of the e-mails, written between 1998 and 2000, was made public by the Energy Department in March.

Among them: "In the end I keep track of two sets of files, the ones that will keep QA happy and the ones that were actually used." QA refers to quality assurance.

Hevesi and others were studying how water moved through the desert site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The government wants to store there 77,000 tons of commercial and defense nuclear waste for at least 10,000 years. The USGS validated the Energy Department conclusion that the water seepage was slow, so radiation would be less likely to escape.

EPA Rules on Mercury

Face Senate Hurdle

GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) joined Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) in introducing a resolution to block the Bush administration's new regulations curbing mercury emissions from power plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued the rules in April; lawmakers have 60 legislative days to introduce a "resolution of disapproval" to keep them from becoming law. Leahy said he is confident he could gather enough support to force a vote on the issue if GOP leaders refuse to take up his measure.

"The Bush administration's new rule will continue to allow mercury, a substance so toxic that it causes birth defects and IQ loss, to continue to poison children and pregnant women," he said. "This disastrous rule should not be allowed to stand as the law of the land."

EPA spokeswoman Eryn Witcher defended the rules, saying, "EPA and the Bush administration continue to feel strongly that we must act now to effectively reduce mercury emissions from power plants. This action threatens to delay the world's first mercury regulation on power plants -- a regulation that will cut harmful emissions by 70 percent nationwide."

Health Groups Seek

Role in Tobacco Suit

Public health groups, saying they lack confidence in the government's handling of the case, moved to intervene in the federal racketeering lawsuit against major tobacco companies. The six groups, which include the American Cancer Society, contended that prosecutors are no longer representing their interests after scaling down a proposed $130 billion penalty to $10 billion. The filing asked for a chance to weigh in only on the issue of remedies.

-- From News Services