Republican News

February 3, 2003


Expresses concerns regarding nuclear energy research, forest management and restoration and flat energy science spending

Washington, D.C. – Senate Energy & Natural Resources Chairman Pete Domenici today praised President Bush for the president’s commitment to hydrogen technology research, research into technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, wild fire suppression, and new technologies to reduce the volume and toxicity of high-level nuclear waste. President Bush’s budget reflects increased funding to all of these critical areas. However, Chairman Domenici expressed concern over some of President Bush’ energy cuts. Chairman Domenici, a strong proponent of nuclear energy, is keenly disappointed by President Bush’s proposal to slash in half funding for nuclear energy research. He is also disappointed that the funding for the DOE Office of Science remains flat for the third year in a row, despite repeated concerns from the energy and research university communities. Chairman Domenici is also troubled by the Administration’s emphasis on fighting wildfire at the apparent expense of proactive forest management to prevent wildfires. Additionally, Chairman Domenici is troubled that the Administration’s budget does not adequately fund forest restoration and rehabilitation for the nearly 7 million acres of forest that America lost to wildfire last year. Chairman Domenici’s statement: “President Bush’s budget reflects his long-standing commitment to help America meet her energy challenges through the coming century. He has challenged us to push the frontiers of science and engineering to design hydrogen-powered cars and put them on America’s roads. He proposes spending $88 million on that research, more than double his FY03 request of $40 million. I congratulate him for his vision and reaffirm my commitment to include a robust hydrogen fuel-cell research program in my energy bill. “President Bush provides increased funding for research into technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I share that commitment. I am also pleased that President Bush has, for the first time, recognized the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative as a vital new program and proposed program funding of $63 million. This program develops technologies that will help us reduce the volume and toxicity of high-level nuclear waste. I believe that research is critical to our nuclear energy future. With nuclear energy, America has a rare opportunity to produce abundant, affordable energy that doesn’t affect the quality of our air. To seize that opportunity, we will need to reduce the volume and toxicity of our nuclear waste. “On the resource side, I am pleased that President Bush has increased funding for fire suppression by $184 million. The Forest Service will receive a total of $1.54 billion to implement the National Fire Plan – nearly 1/3rd of its entire budget. “However, I am troubled by important aspects of the budget that I believe are underfunded. Our nation needs a strong investment in the DOE’s office of science programs. The Senate Energy & Water Appropriations Subcommittee has clearly said that DOE cannot continue to fulfill its national mission without a substantial investment in research and education initiatives. Three years of flat funding concerns me. “I am very disappointed and puzzled that President Bush proposes slashing by half the funding for the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative from a proposed level of $25 million to the Administration’s FY03 budget to only $12 million in FY04. “I believe America has made a giant mistake in putting nuclear energy on the back burner for so long. Nuclear energy is clean, abundant and affordable. To seize the opportunity this energy provides, we must expand our nuclear energy research. “I am also concerned that the Administration is not adequately funding forest restoration and rehabilitation for the nearly seven million acres of beautiful forest land that the West lost to wildfire last year. The loss of this forest has already resulted in mud slides, tainted water supplies and the continued death of fish and wildlife in regions devastated by fire. If we don’t swiftly to reforest this land, these problems will multiply. “I am also troubled by what appears to be our limited ability to fight fires this summer. Despite a doubling in fire suppression funds, the Administration is showing only half the fire fighting capability it had the year before. Because so many of these fires are close to communities, the Forest Service’s cost of fighting them is growing faster than the funding. I fear that this means that more small communities will be devastated by fire because we couldn’t put these fires out while they were still small. “Finally, I don’t think we can address our forest health problem primarily through fire suppression. We need to prevent these fires before they start by pulling dead wood and underbrush out of our choked forests.” A comprehensive overview of the Administration’s FY04 budget for programs under the jurisdiction of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee can be found on the committee website by close of business today.