Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Date: June 5, 2012
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Energy


Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the recognition, Mr. Chairman, and I also rise in opposition to the gentleman's amendment.

Our country really does need a diversified energy portfolio. Nuclear is part of that. Almost a quarter of all of our electrical power today is generated through nuclear power. It is carbon free, and I do not think this is the time to withdraw research support.

In light of, particularly, the tragedy in Japan, the safety of our existing fleet and progress as far as improved technologies is vital.

And, again, I would add my voice to that in opposition to the gentleman's amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in very reluctant opposition to the gentlelady's amendment, as well as remarks issued by the gentleman from Virginia. I certainly appreciate their desire relative to the good work being done at ARPA E.

The two points I would make in opposition is that, first of all, the gentlewoman was absolutely correct on the top-line figures for fossil fuel, but I do think they are somewhat misleading because there is a rescission contained within the bill for $187 million. The true reflection, as far as the relationship between current year spending and the proposal in the House bill, is for fiscal year 2012. Fossil fuel is at $534 million. The proposal in the subcommittee mark and the committee-reported bill is $554 million.

Again, appreciating deeply the very good work and cultural change that is taking place within the Department of Energy because of ARPA E, I would also point out that energy consumption today by fossil fuel is represented by about 83 percent of our utilization. We do need to continue to be focused on that huge segment of current use to be more efficient and to reduce our carbon footprint.

Again, I would add my remarks to the chairman's, and I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. I rise in opposition to the gentleman's amendment for the very reasons I espoused briefly before relative to the gentlewoman from Hawaii's amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. I rise in strong support of the gentleman's amendment.

Developing oil shale into a fuel source is very energy intensive. Both strip mining and in situ oil mining requires huge amounts of energy. In fact, more energy may go into developing the process than would be produced in the oil secured.

Oil shale development is projected to have a dramatic effect also, as was mentioned during the debate, on water supplies. This water would further stress already overallocated water in the West. Oil shale development also poses a potentially serious threat to water quality. The process of transforming the kerogen in shale into oil leaves behind salts and numerous toxins, water-soluble chemicals that could leach into the groundwater that is the source of much of the region's surface water during the critical time when flow is lowest. Flushing these chemicals from the oil shale production zone, as several companies have proposed, would also create huge volumes of highly saline water that will require further treatment. The technical feasibility of isolating and treating contaminated groundwater has not been demonstrated.

The proposed development of this resource will recreate major new demands on the energy grid as well. By some estimates, the new power plants needed to support a 1 million-barrel-per-day oil shale industry--and we believe that is the low end of DOE's projections--could emit 105 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. That's about 80 percent more than was released by all existing electric utility generating units in the States of Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah in the year 2005.

The spent shale that remains after processing is also not an easy problem, and it will not go away. It potentially represents between 90 and 95 percent of the material that is mined. The Nation already has a legacy of sites that we cannot afford to adequately clean up today. We should not add to this legacy.

While I have indicated during debate on this bill that I support a balanced approach to solving the Nation's energy issues, given the costs and environmental impacts of this particular source at this particular time, with our constrained resources, this is one alternative that should be foregone.

Again, I strongly support the amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the recognition and rise in strong support of the gentleman's amendment. I certainly appreciate the concerns he has expressed about cleanup nationally, as well as the site illustrated in Utah, and share his concerns that we are not adequately investing in cleaning up contaminated communities where we have a national obligation.

This amendment would make a cut of $9.6 million to the weapons program, but I would point out to my colleagues that while I support the weapons complex and its modernization, this is a very slight change in funding, an account that has a $7.5 billion allocation and sees a $275 million increase for 2013 under the bill. And, therefore, I do think the gentleman has taken a very reasoned approach and strongly support his amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the recognition and rise in strong support of the gentleman from Illinois' amendment. I believe the debate on this has been very fruitful and will simply add my voice to theirs.

I believe the administration and the Senate's ongoing attempts to shut this activity down are without scientific merit and are contrary, as has been said on the floor, to existing law and congressional direction.

Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the Federal Government has a responsibility to demonstrate its capability to meet its contractual obligation by addressing the spent fuel and other high-level nuclear waste at permanently shutdown reactors.

We need to ensure that the administration does not unilaterally dictate policy for nuclear waste disposal, and I strongly urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the gentleman's amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the recognition.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the gentlewoman's amendment and commend her for crafting it.

As I pointed out in earlier remarks, I do appreciate the chairman's efforts, as well as the members of the subcommittee and full committee, to increase money set aside for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative. In fact, the chairman was responsible for adding $17 million above the administration's current request.

However, I do believe that more can be done and that the Sanchez amendment, by adding $16 million to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, would get us very close to our current year appropriated level.

I believe, as a Nation, our greatest security threat is not a launched attack by another nation-state, but the use of nuclear weapons or materials in an act of terror. And given that particular threat, I do believe every dollar counts and every dollar of these $16 million count. I would ask my colleagues to support the gentlewoman's amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in reluctant opposition to the amendment offered by the gentlemen from Colorado and Massachusetts.

I do believe, given the work of the subcommittee, that the dollars that are contained in it represent an attempt to ensure that, looking down the road with the hopeful ratification of the New START Treaty, we will be consistent with those funding levels that will be required.

While a world without nuclear weapons would be my preference and while the U.S. must maintain its deterrent capability today, we should also maintain the capabilities necessary to ensure that they are safe and effective.

The gentleman from Massachusetts rightfully asked are there any savings that we can see under the defense accounts, whether at the Department of Defense or the Department of Energy. And I would point out one of the eliminations in this year's budget are moneys for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility.

So I would again emphasize to my colleagues that the subcommittee try to look at this account with great specificity to remove those items that were not necessary and to spend our tax dollars wisely.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the recognition, and, to be honest with you, I don't know about conservatives from Texas or liberals from Massachusetts. I'm from Gary, Indiana, and I am here simply to ask my colleagues to not flush $100 million down a drain. That would be my technical argument. And I want to thank the gentleman from Texas and I want to thank the gentleman from Massachusetts for offering this amendment.

I also want to thank the subcommittee chair for reducing the administration's original request that was $150 million for USEC, which is the United States Enrichment Corporation, to $100 million that is contained

in this bill.

I must tell you, I have serious disagreement with the committee mark on this and do believe this amendment needs to be adopted. The people of this country work too hard for the tax dollars they send to us to flush this $100 million down a drain.

In 2008, when this company applied for a loan guarantee, DOE required USEC to produce a track record of running these centrifuges for a time sufficient to prove that they could be commercialized. This, we were told, would be sufficient to prove the technology. It was not.

Further, I would point out that in 2010, $45 million in accounting exchange, an exchange for liability for enrichment services, was provided to the company, essentially forgiving them $45 million of liability. This fiscal year 12, $44 million in additional dollars in exchange, relieving the company of liability that is now on the taxpayers' book, was put forward.

There is a proposal on the table, separate from this bill and separate from this amendment, to do that exchange of liability for enrichment services a third time for another $82 million because the company needs it. The question during subcommittee consideration of this issue that was addressed to the Department of Energy is: What happens to the taxpayers? What happens to this country if the cost of cleaning up those tailings exceeds the liability that was given a company. That is what happens if it's not $44 million. What if it's not $45 million? What if it's not $82 million? What if it's $100 million? We eat it. We eat it, and that's wrong. That is wrong, and people ought to adopt this amendment.

Several months ago, the claim was that just in another 2 years, just another 2 years and just another $300 million would prove the technology. Now, now today, the Department is saying this program would make progress, not prove the technology. They would make progress towards proving the technology.

It was mentioned that on May 15 the company was downgraded by Standard & Poor's. Last month USEC was warned that it was in danger of being delisted by the New York Stock Exchange. Delisting would mean that the company stock would essentially be reduced to speculative penny stock status, reducing the market for the company's shares.

Last month, the Department announced again this very complicated deal relative to the tailings. This deal takes the most compelling argument away from funding USEC's American Centrifuge Project, because last month USEC, the Department, Energy Northwest, and TVA agreed to keep the enrichment plant USEC operates, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, in operation for another year by re-enriching uranium tailings.

The point I would make is that the transfer of these tailings results in enough U.S. origin low-enriched uranium for 15 years. In addition, the National Nuclear Security Administration can access the mixed oxide facilities for backup low-enrichment uranium for an additional 4 1/2 years.

The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Johnson), talked about the long term. That is the long term. That's two decades from now. And the technology that USEC is using today is 20 years old, and the National Nuclear Security Administration has not evaluated alternatives, but it has the time to do so.

Again, we need to make a decision here. The decision ought to be to adopt this amendment and to save the taxpayers $100 million.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I rise reluctantly to oppose the amendment offered by the gentleman from New Mexico.

I deeply respect his concern with the oversight of the programs under NNSA, and I agree that there are some areas of oversight that need to be strengthened. I cannot support any further cuts, however, to the Office of the Administrator.

As written, the bill already reduces funding for the Administrator's Office by $10 million from this year's enacted level. This amendment would compound that cut by $89 million. At the same time, NNSA has already received an increase of $275 million when compared to current year spending. I'm concerned that any further reductions to the Administrator's Office would hamper the ability of NNSA to plan and oversee its core mission areas.

I would like to work with the chairman and the gentleman from New Mexico to address the concerns expressed, and to ensure that NNSA properly maintains and cleans up its sites in New Mexico and throughout the country.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the chairman yielding and would add my words to his and would want to work with the gentleman, as well as the former speaker from New Mexico. They have a very serious problem they're trying to address.

My concern is with problems we have with management at the Department, and this would, I think, complicate that problem, given the increase that NNSA has. But, again, I understand what the gentleman is trying to do and would like to work with him and the chair.