"One exception to the rule last year was the Environment and Public Works Committee, where the two most unlikely of bedfellows — Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) — teamed up to produce some of the year’s best committee-level fireworks and actual accomplishments. Indeed, Boxer’s hearings on global warming were made famous when she and Inhofe began sniping over the testimony of former Vice President Al Gore, and the two had repeated clashes over the year. But at the same time, they also teamed up to push through a massive Water Resources Development Act reauthorization — no small feat for two lawmakers so diametrically opposed they would seem to have difficulty agreeing on the time. The passage of the WRDA bill was a classic example of committee-level negotiating helping to pave the way for a hard push on the chamber floor, and it was made all the more remarkable by the increasingly anti-earmark and pork climate on Capitol Hill."
-Roll Call, January 22, 2008,
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Watch Senator Inhofe's Floor Speech at http://www.youtube.com/InhofeEPWPress
On Thursday, Senator Inhofe, together with Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Larry Craig (R-ID), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Kit Bond (R-MO), Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Jim DeMint (R-SC), today introduced the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2008, a bill that reforms the licensing process for authorizing construction, operation, and closure of the Yucca Mountain repository.
Senator Inhofe, Ranking Member of the EPW Committee:
“I believe that a vibrant and growing nuclear energy industry is vital to the energy security of our nation and the health of our economy. I am concerned however, that continuing delays in opening our nation’s repository at Yucca Mountain will hinder the resurgence of nuclear energy in the U.S. The task before us therefore is to develop a repository that protects public health, public safety and the environment by providing a permanent solution for our nation’s nuclear waste. It’s high time that we accomplish this task. We’ve passed laws and resolutions to do it. We’ve collected over $27 billion dollars from electricity consumers to pay for it. And courts have affirmed that we have a legal obligation to do it. As the generation that has benefited from the use of nuclear energy and the resulting spent fuel, I believe it is incumbent upon us to manage spent fuel in a manner that is fair to current generations and generations to come. I am introducing a bill today that will do just that.”
"For America to have energy security, a strong economy, and a clean environment; nuclear energy must play a vital role in our nation’s energy portfolio. Without a permanent storage facility for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, our country will become more dependent on foreign sources of energy and pollute our environment even more. Yucca Mountain is the most studied piece of earth on this planet, but sadly, opposition is based on politics, not on sound science. In 2002, Congress voted to open Yucca Mountain. It’s time we move forward and remove the regulatory hurdles standing in the way. Opponents of Yucca have wasted taxpayer dollars, reduced our energy security, and threatened the health of our economy."
“Idaho signed an agreement with the federal government in 1994 that requires all of our Cold War legacy waste material to be removed from Idaho and stored permanently at the Yucca Mountain site no later than 2035. Let me be clear: there is no other option for these types of waste but to permanently dispose of them in this fashion. The citizens of our States will be relying on strong leadership from future Administrations to make this happen. What I heard in Nevada last week deeply troubles me, and I suspect is troubling the people of South Carolina this week. This serious issue deserves better than political pandering. More than 30 states, including my own, are acutely involved in the safe and timely disposal of spent nuclear fuel and defense waste; that is why I am cosponsoring this bill, and why I introduced a companion bill with Sen. Domenici last year. Together, these two bills will allow Yucca Mountain to accept and safely dispose of the waste from all these States on a predictable timeline, replacing the uncertainty that we have today.”
“Nuclear power is one of the best ways to achieve reliable, carbon-free electricity,” said Alexander, a member of the Environment & Public Works Committee. “Solving the problem of nuclear waste disposal is a critical step toward increasing the role of nuclear power in our nation’s energy portfolio. Tennessee Valley Authority ratepayers have already paid hundreds of millions of dollars into Yucca Mountain, so the federal government should move forward with Yucca Mountain to provide both a solution for nuclear waste storage and to make sure that this investment by TVA ratepayers isn’t wasted. Ultimately, solving the disposal problem is important for the entire nation because we need more nuclear power to increase our energy independence and clean our air.”
"Americans want clean energy solutions, and nuclear power with zero air pollution and zero carbon emissions is our best option. I hope the ‘Not In My Back Yard’ attitude will not block this nuclear bill and deprive our families, workers and the environment from this clean energy solution they deserve."
"Yucca Mountain has already been designated as the site for a permanent repository; this legislation provides the avenue to make that repository a reality. The construction of a permanent and environmentally-safe repository will not only benefit those states with interim storage facilities, like my home state of Idaho, but also allows for increased independence from fossil fuels and foreign sources of energy by clearing the way for the development of new nuclear plants. While allowing for the production of nuclear energy, this bill also ensures public safety by meeting the standards set by the Environment and Public Works Committee."
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Click Here to Watch: Senator James Inhofe Floor Speech on the Introduction of the Yucca Mountain Bill
[inhofe_jan24.ram - | 14.3 MBs | quality]
Mr. President, I believe that a vibrant and growing nuclear energy industry is vital to the energy security of our nation and the health of our economy. However, I am concerned that continuing delays in opening our nation’s repository at Yucca Mountain will hinder the resurgence of nuclear energy in the U.S.
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 established a program to locate and develop a repository for nuclear waste, including both defense waste legacy from the Cold War and civilian spent fuel. In 2002, after 20 years of research, the President recommended to the Congress that Yucca Mountain should be developed as the repository. The State of Nevada objected, as was their right under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. However, Congress passed a joint resolution affirming the Administration’s recommendation of Yucca Mountain with strong, bipartisan majorities in both Houses.
Mr. President, the location has been decided. The debate on this issue is no longer whether a repository should be built at Yucca Mountain. That decision was made in 2002. The task that remains is to develop a repository that protects public health and safety, and the environment: a permanent solution for our nation’s nuclear waste. It’s high time that we accomplish this task. We’ve passed laws and resolutions to do it. We’ve collected over $27 billion dollars from electricity consumers to pay for it. And courts have affirmed that we have a legal obligation to do it. Like many people, I am frustrated that the Department of Energy (DOE) is 20 years behind schedule. However, I am pleased that the DOE appears to have made significant progress in the past few years and will hopefully file a license application this year despite the persistent assault on program funding.
I understand that opposition to Yucca Mountain remains, advocating that we abandon it in favor of interim storage. There have been many proposals on interim storage, and I expect there will be more in the future. But we have interim storage right now at 121 locations in 39 states. Make no mistake, interim storage is a temporary fix and forces future generations to solve our waste problem.
Mr. President, it’s time to move forward with the permanent solution at Yucca Mountain. I’ve visited the site. I have a question for those who want to abandon Yucca Mountain: If you can’t build a repository in the middle of a mountain in the middle of a desert, where should it be?
Let’s think about this for a moment. The logical first step to finding a new repository site is to begin by re-evaluating sites that have been considered before. Here is a map showing the 37 states that the DOE and its predecessor, the Energy Research and Development Administration, have evaluated in the past based on the presence of favorable geologic formations:
Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, my home state of Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
37 states have been considered as possible candidates for developing a repository. Does it really make sense to abandon a site, where we’ve invested 25 years and $8 billion dollars, before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission even considers it, only to turn around and start from scratch re-evaluating sites in 37 states? I don’t think so.
As the generation that has benefited from the use of nuclear energy and the resulting spent fuel, I believe it is incumbent upon us to manage spent fuel in a manner that is fair to current generations and generations to come. I am introducing a bill that will do just that.
DOE has indicated there are legislative provisions they need to complete the licensing process and begin construction of the repository our electricity consumers have paid for. Senators Domenici and Craig introduced their NU-WAY bill, S. 37, which includes those provisions within the jurisdiction of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. My bill includes the remaining DOE provisions that are within the jurisdiction of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
But my bill goes beyond that. My bill will incorporate a flexible framework for future generations to apply their knowledge and innovations to improve the repository. The task at hand is to develop a safe repository using state-of-the-art technology and cutting edge science. The trouble is, technology that is “state-of-the-art” now, won’t be 50 years from now, much less one hundred years from now. When making decisions on how to develop a facility that will be safe for up to one million years, we should not limit ourselves to the science and technology available today. We should establish a flexible framework that incorporates technological advances into the facility design over time. One that allows our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to improve on the project we’ve started.
Several international bodies, including the National Academy of Science and the international Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency, have advocated repository development in stages that will incorporate technological advances over time. The reformed licensing process in this bill integrates that concept into the current licensing process.
My bill reforms the licensing process for authorizing construction, operation, and closure of the repository. The threshold for approval to construct the repository is based on a determination that the facility could be safely operated for 300 years. During this time, a long-term science and technology program will be established to monitor and analyze the repository’s performance and to conduct research into technologies that would improve the facility. The repository license will be amended every 50 years, at a minimum, to incorporate these improvements. During this phase, waste would remain retrievable so that future generations may recover valuable material or upgrade disposal systems, for example.
When the DOE applies to permanently close the repository, it must then demonstrate compliance with the EPA’s radiation standard before ceasing operations at the site. Until then, the facility will be subject to strict NRC regulation as an operating facility.
Today, this program has been litigated into a corner. After several lawsuits, the EPA has responded by drafting a radiation standard for a million years. That’s right, based on what we know today, DOE must prove a reasonable expectation that Yucca Mountain will be safe for one million years before DOE can even begin building a repository. This is a ridiculous and arrogant requirement that assumes we know right now all that will ever be known about the management of spent nuclear fuel and its impact of public health and safety. That compliance decision only makes sense when DOE decides to close the repository and cease operations. Until that time, repository enhancements reflecting 300 years of scientific innovation will improve its protection of public health and safety, and the environment.
My approach is not about kicking the can down the road and forcing future generations to solve the problem. My approach is about meeting a legal and moral obligation to build the best facility we can now, laying a solid foundation for future generations to improve it based on what they learn. I’m confident that we can build a repository that will protect public health and safety and the environment. BUT, I’m equally confident that, 50 years from now, our grandchildren could build a BETTER repository. 50 years from now, they will have learned a lot about the actual performance of the repository, something we can only predict right now. 50 years from now, the waste placed in the repository may require isolation for a few hundred years instead of a million.
Lastly, my bill includes provisions necessary to support new nuclear plant construction. Before receiving a license, nuclear plants must meet two requirements. The first is that companies must sign a contract with the DOE to provide for disposal of spent fuel. My bill modifies those provisions in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to make them current. The second is known as waste confidence. Nuclear plants must demonstrate there is confidence that the spent fuel will be managed and disposed of in a manner that protects public health and safety. My bill clarifies that the repository program meets this requirement for disposal.
When a society takes on the task of building a complex, first-of-a-kind facility envisioned to remain robust for a million years, it immediately raises questions about generational equity. As Senators, we must balance fairness to future generations that haven’t been born yet with fairness to the generations that we currently represent. Finding that balance must be based on several principles, including:
-Protecting the health and safety of current generations;
-Protecting the health and safety of future generations;
- Minimizing the impact on the environment;
Meeting the need for reliable, cost-effective energy;
- Meeting legal obligations;
-Minimizing Taxpayer liability; and
-Costs are covered by those who produce the waste.
My bill adheres to these principles and strikes that balance.
Rumors of Yucca Mountain’s demise have been highly exaggerated. It is time we focus on developing the safest, state-of-the-art repository that we can, one step at a time. We owe it to our generation and to the generations that follow.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Madame Chairman, I would like to clarify something, there have been a number of press reports that Administrator Johnson refused to appear at a “hearing” in California on January 10th. There was no formal hearing on January 10th. Senator Boxer held a public briefing, not a hearing, and from what I understand, that public briefing was basically a political event. In declining to participate Administrator Johnson said he would appear at this Committee hearing. I would point out that Administrator Johnson has never declined to participate or send a representative to a Committee Hearing.
In fact, I would have to say I was surprised that Senator Boxer would invite a Bush Cabinet official to participate in a political event, and to be honest Mr. Johnson, if you had agreed to attend a political event like that I would have been unhappy with you.
This political event set a very negative tone for the Committee’s handling of this issue. I am a strong proponent of vigorous oversight to ensure that the nation’s laws are carried out in the manner intended by Congress, and to ensure the executive branch is faithfully discharging its mission. But today’s hearing is not that kind of hearing. Rather, it is theater.
There have been charges the Administration has been tardy with documents, but EPA has been asked to collect and turn over large amounts of material, all of which needs to go through the normal process of review by agency lawyers. The initial request gave only two weeks bracketing the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in which to respond. Where was the outrage or the rhetoric when the Clinton Administration was repeatedly late in producing documents for the Committee? And as I recall, the Clinton EPA was typically given far more time than the constraints placed on this EPA.
When we focus on the substance of the debate, it seems clear to me that the waiver petition should be denied, and I encourage Administrator Johnson to formally make a final decision to do so.
Over and over it has been said that EPA has never denied a waiver before. While that is untrue – as even Vermont concedes in its litigation – it would be irrelevant even if it were true.
In every instance when California was granted a waiver in the past, it was to address “compelling and extraordinary conditions” in the State. And that is the standard, as clearly spelled out in 209(b) of the Clean air Act. Tell me how California differs from other States when it comes to global warming? Carbon is a global issue, not a local one. In that regard, California is ordinary, not extraordinary.
In fact, I think it is certainly relevant that California cannot show harm from global warming over the last two decades because temperatures there have been declining, not increasing, as this chart shows.
California also will not bear the burden of implementing it. That would be born by other States. My own State of Oklahoma has 27,000 auto related jobs. Of course, that is dwarfed by states like Michigan. In comparison, in addition to Michigan, States represented on this Committee such as Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee have two to six times as many.
The fact is that California politicians are trying to achieve through this waiver provision something they cannot achieve through federal legislation – even tighter fuel economy standards than what Congress passed in the Energy bill just last month.
I think that the Energy bill just passed means that Congress has already spoken to this issue. That law represents the will of Congress on fuel economy standards. If California legislators thought otherwise, why did not one of them offer an amendment to address the issue?
Mr. Administrator, I look forward to hearing your testimony.
Inhofe EPW Website Wins Coveted Gold Mouse Award; CMF Recognizes Inhofe EPW Committee Website as Among the "Best of the Best"
Monday, January 14, 2008
Senator Inhofe was recognized on January 14, 2008 by the Congressional Management Foundation http://www.cmfweb.org/ (CMF) for having one of the top websites in Congress. The Inhofe-Republican portion of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee website http://www.epw.senate.gov/minority was awarded CMF’s prestigious 2007 “Gold Mouse Award." CMF is a non-profit, non-partisan management consulting and research organization in Washington, D.C.
Because of a year of stellar achievements, the CMF declared the Inhofe EPW website for being “among the best-of-the-best on Capitol Hill.” “Senator Inhofe’s Committee website shows that he understands the value of creating a virtual office to reach specific audiences who have come to expect having their needs met online,” said Beverly Bell, CMF’s Executive Director. “The Congressional Management Foundation congratulates Senator Inhofe for having a website that is among the best-of-the-best on Capitol Hill, and we are pleased to present Senator Inhofe with the 2007 Gold Mouse Award.”
The impact of the newly redesigned website was felt almost immediately, when tens of thousands of internet users per hour clicked on the Inhofe EPW Press Blog, and as a result, crashed the entire US Senate Web server. The historic shutdown occurred on January 30, 2007. [See: The Hill: Drudge, global warming shut down Senate site. (LINK)]
“Pundits do it. Scientists do it. Even Donald Trump does it. So why shouldn't Congress blog too?” The article goes on to say, “His [Inhofe’s] media team is somewhat notorious in Washington for their 'facts of the day' and 'weekly closer' emails that attempt to get out another side of the story. And their new blog is already making waves, not to mention causing some congressional tech malfunctioning.”
Senator Inhofe’s award winning EPW website also began instituting real time updates during live events. The Inhofe EPW Press team became the first Committee to “live blog” during a Presidential State of the Union Address and began posting live blog updates (LINK) throughout important committee mark-ups.
Websites were graded on how well they incorporate five basic building blocks which extensive research identified as critical for effectiveness: audience, content, usability, interactivity, and innovation. Using these building blocks, an evaluation framework was developed by CMF and their research partners at Harvard, Ohio State, and the University of California-Riverside which would be fair and objective while still taking into account important qualitative factors that affect a visitor's experience on a website.
The Inhofe EPW website also generated international headlines and has served as a source of breaking news and information. Here is a sampling of recent international coverage generated by the Inhofe EPW website: UK Telegraph; Boston Herald; Canada’s National Post; New York Times; Fox News; CNNMoney.com; Human Events; Croatia’s Javno; The Cincinnati Enquirer; WorldNetDaily.com; United Press International (UPI); Spero News; New Zealand Herald; CNSNews.com; Real Clear Politics; PA’s Morning Call; Investor's Business Daily; Colorado Springs Gazette; Newsmax.com; CA’s Orange County Register; Nashua Telegraph; Yahoo News; & Australia’s Herald Sun;
Sampling of Inhofe EPW Website’s Watchdog Role on News Media:
# # #
The New York Times
America Needs Frances Atomic Anne
By ROGER COHEN
January 24, 2008
It’s not often that I find myself recommending a French state-owned industry as the answer to major U.S. problems, but I guess there’s an exception to every rule.
In this case the exception is the French nuclear energy company Areva, which provides about 80 percent of the country’s electricity from 58 nuclear power plants, is building a new generation of reactor that will come on line at Flamanville in 2012, and is exporting its expertise to countries from China to the United Arab Emirates.
Contrast that with the United States, where just 20 percent of electricity comes from nuclear plants, no commercial reactor has come on line since 1996, no new reactor has been ordered for decades, and debate about nuclear power remains paralyzing despite its clean-air electricity generation in the age of global warming.
Areva is headed by Anne Lauvergeon, a brilliant product of France’s top schools. She’s earned the sobriquet “Atomic Anne,” a stylish “Vive les Nukes” saleswoman. The United States needs her equivalent to cut through its nuclear power hang-ups.
Those hesitations have been evident in this election year. Among Democrats, Barack Obama has shown most willingness (albeit guarded) to back nuclear power, with Hillary Clinton multiplying caveats and John Edwards opposed. Republican candidates are favorable, but the campaign suggests costly nuclear muddle will persist.
It’s time to look to the French. They’ve got their heads in the right place, with nuclear power enjoying a 70 percent approval rating. The Germans, by contrast, have gone silly-Green and are shunning nuclear power. The British, more smart-Green, are reviving their plants.
I know, that word “nuclear” still sends a frisson. Images multiply of Hiroshima and Chernobyl and the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979 and waste in dangerous perpetuity, not to mention proliferation and dirty bombs.
But the lesson of the post-9/11 world is that we have to get over our fears, especially irrational ones.
Nuclear power has proved safe in both France and America — not one radiation-related death has occurred in the history of U.S. commercial nuclear power. It constitutes a vital alternative to the greenhouse-gas spewing coal-power plants that account for over 50 percent of U.S. electricity generation. Thousands of people die annually breathing the noxious particles of coal-fire installations.
Of course, wind and solar power should be developed, but even by mid-century they will satisfy only a fraction of U.S. energy needs, however much those needs are cut. Hundreds of square miles of eyesore wind farms barely produce the electricity you get from a nuclear plant on less than a square mile.
“Nuclear power is the most efficient energy source we have,” said Gwyneth Cravens, author of “Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Power.” “Uranium is energy-dense. If you got all your electricity from nuclear for your lifetime, your share of the waste would fit in a soda can.”
Cravens once feared this waste so much that she demonstrated against nuclear power plants, but she’s come around. Like Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace who once lambasted nuclear power as “criminal” and now advocates its use, she’s been convinced by the evidence. That’s called growing up.
Greenpeace remains opposed to nuclear power and Jim Riccio, a nuclear policy analyst for the organization, told me building more plants in the United States would be expensive, wasteful and dangerous. “Why in God’s name would you want to build more targets for terrorists?” he asked.
Fair question, to which the answer is that jihadist terrorists should only dictate western energy policy to the degree that the United States and its allies try to cut dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
Where Riccio has a point is that wild cost overruns on several nuclear power plants and on the planned Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada for radioactive waste, which will cost some $30 billion to open, have suggested there may be better ways to spend money on energy diversification and saving.
But again the French, with the cleanest air in the industrialized world, have an answer. Their standardized design, expedited approval process, and improving technology (evident in the third-generation Evolutionary Pressurized Reactor) offer streamlined routes to cost-saving. They have also drastically reduced waste by reprocessing most of it into fuel, a long-term answer to the disposal issue.
Has the United States taken note? Congressional incentives for new nuclear plants in the 2005 Energy Policy Act and plans for some two dozen new reactors suggest the political ground may be shifting.
For one possible plant, in Maryland, Areva has joined forces with Constellation Energy, a Baltimore utility. Lauvergeon has said she wants to “reinstate” the nuclear industry in the United States.
Vive Atomic Anne! Cooperation on a new generation of American nuclear plants would be a powerful signal of the transformed Franco-U.S. relationship under President Nicolas Sarkozy.