Today we will be conducting a hearing to consider two highly qualified nominees: Molly O’Neill to be the Assistant Administrator at EPA for Environmental Information, and Dr. Dale Klein to be a Member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Molly O’Neill comes before the committee having served as the State Director of the National Environmental Information Network for the Environmental Council of the States. She certainly understands what EPA’s Office of Information is all about and she will be able to hit the ground running.
I would like to applaud the EPA’s recent efforts to find ways to reduce the compliance burden associated with the Toxic Release Inventory, or TRI. Last fall, EPA proposed allowing certain TRI reporters to use the shorter TRI Form. This move would save an estimated 165,000 hours of burden each year while retaining 99% of current long form data at a national level. This is the type of streamlining the Agency should consider and I encourage you, Ms. O’Neill, to continue to look for other areas where you can create efficiencies and reduce burdens while maintaining environmental protection.
Dale Klein has been nominated to be a Member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the President has announced his intention to designate Dr. Klein as Chairman of the NRC. Dr. Klein is currently the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs. Dr. Klein has significant experience in the nuclear world. He is a tenured professor at the University of Texas where he has worked in its nuclear program for nearly 30 years and has served on the Texas Radiation Advisory Board. He has been a regulator; he has been part of the regulated community where he oversaw the licensing of a university nuclear reactor; and he has managed a large federal government office with enormous responsibilities. He is the perfect fit to be Chairman of the NRC.
In 1998, as chairman of the nuclear subcommittee, I began a series of oversight hearings of the NRC. The hearing I held in 1998 was the first held by this committee in years. When I began conducting oversight of the NRC, I did so with the goal of changing the bureaucratic atmosphere at the NRC. By 1998, the NRC had become an agency of process, not results. If the agency was to improve it had to employ a more results-oriented approach - one that was risk-based and science-based. I am pleased that in the last eight years, we have seen tremendous strides. This approach has made the NRC a lean and more effective regulatory agency. I do want to take a moment to acknowledge the service of the current Chairman of the NRC, Nils Diaz, as he has been a driving force behind much of the positive changes at the agency. After nearly a decade of serving on the Commission, Chairman Diaz has decided to step down. He will be missed and I want to publicly thank him for his service. It will now be up to Dr. Klein to continue that progress. If nuclear, and more specifically NEW nuclear, is going to play an increasing role in this nation’s energy mix, the NRC must do its job effectively. They need to continue the effort at risk-based regulations, enforcement actions and programs. It is not only important that we continue the progress on relicensing, we have to make sure that the NRC can handle licenses for new plants. These are major challenges facing the Commission.
We need a full and confirmed Nuclear Regulatory Commission. When the committee votes on Dr. Klein’s confirmation, we will also include on that agenda both Commissioners Lyons and Jaczko.
Dr. Lyons and Dr. Jaczko are currently serving under recess appointments that will expire at the end of this Congress. The NRC has significant challenges ahead and we cannot ask for the Commission to function up to our expectations if we do not have a full and confirmed commission in place.
I want thank the nominees for being here today and for your willingness to serve. It is my hope that we can have your confirmed in the very near future.