Domenici Statement at Department of Energy Budget Hearing

February 6, 2008
04:27 PM
            WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today made the following opening statement regarding the Department of Energy’s FY2009 Budget Request.  Secretary Samuel Bodman appeared in front of the committee to discuss the Department’s priorities and answer questions.
            The statement appears below:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Mr. Secretary, I want to thank you for coming before the Committee this morning.  It is our last meeting at an annual budget hearing in our respective capacities.  It has been a pleasure to work with you, and I know that we will accomplish many good things in the time we have left.  I am very pleased that the FY 2009 budget focuses on nuclear energy, global climate change technologies, and our investment in science and innovation. 
I first want to make some comments about lab funding.  Overall, this is a good budget for our national laboratories.  I sincerely hope to avoid last year’s devastating scenario.  The FY 2009 budget puts the labs on stable footing, with the necessary investments in facilities.  At the same time, I am concerned about insufficient funding and the pace of certain projects, such as the LANSCE facility.  I believe the pace proposed in this budget is too slow and I intend to address this during the appropriations process.
I am pleased with your investment in nonproliferation including the MOX program, and I will continue to work to invest additional resources to develop a sustainable capability in nonproliferation research and development at the three weapons laboratories as proposed in the Energy and Water Conference.  Maintaining the technological edge over terrorists is key to keeping our nation safe.
I would now like to turn to a discussion of nuclear energy.  Mr. Secretary, I want to commend you for considerable investments in nuclear energy, and I believe that these nuclear power initiatives hold great promise for our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  I remind this Committee, and you, Mr. Secretary, that when we passed the 2005 Energy Policy Act, Congress sent a message that the United States was serious again about robust nuclear energy use in this country.  And, that message was heard around the world.  Nuclear power is the largest source of carbon-free energy in the world.
I’m encouraged by the Department’s continued support for nuclear energy.  The Administration seeks to increase funding for nuclear energy, science, and technology by 37 percent to $1.42 billion for FY2009.  The NP2010 initiative, increased by 80 percent, will play an important role in the licensing of new nuclear plants.  There is no question that the nuclear renaissance has begun.  And, as we seek to address global climate challenges, we must continue to invest even more in the promise of nuclear power, which this budget request acknowledges. 
Loan Guarantees
Now, let me discuss the budget proposal on the loan guarantee program authorized in Title 17 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 for a moment.  I am very pleased that the budget request reflects the agreements reached in the FY2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act.  Your proposal to extend the date authorized to issue loan guarantees to 2010 for non-nuclear projects and 2011 for nuclear power will help ensure that the $38.5 billion available will be fully utilized.  I hope that you will even be successful in issuing a loan guarantee before this administration ends.
As you know, Mr. Secretary, we passed the important bipartisan America Competes Act, incorporating the views of the Augustine Report, the President, and Republicans and Democrats alike in the Congress.  Your budget proposes an increase of $748 million to the Office of Science, for a total of $4.7 billion.  This proposal keeps funding available to double the Office of Science budget in 10 years, and I applaud you for it.  
While I support this substantial increase, I do plan on asking you some questions about how your department plans to integrate the America COMPETES Act within this budget.  I had hoped to see more of a focus on specific components of the COMPETES Act.  And, I would have liked to see that legislation more fully funded in this budget request, but many components simply are not mentioned.  I certainly hope that the Department plans on carrying out the initiatives of this bipartisan law.
Funding the COMPETES agenda will be a high priority for me in the appropriations bill.  I want to be sure that we are able to better utilize our great laboratories in educating and training future students and teachers in science and math. 
I was very disappointed to learn that the FY2009 budget completely eliminates the Weatherization Assistance Program.  This program provides vital assistance to those seeking more energy-efficient homes, which helps bring down energy costs.  I think the Chairman described this decision as “wrong-headed,” and I would say that he got it about right.  I will seek to restore funding for this important program in the appropriations process.
I am disappointed that the FutureGen project must take a different direction. The project has revealed difficult questions about the best way to advance clean coal with taxpayer dollars. We may find that restructuring FutureGen was the right decision, however. The Department will have to fully digest feedback from their Request for Information and I will have questions for you on this topic.
Carbon Capture and Sequestration
The FY 2009 budget marks a continuation of dramatic funding increases for carbon capture and sequestration. Our effort to reduce greenhouse gases while sustaining an affordable energy supply hinges upon cost-effective demonstration of this technology, but $648 million for research and demonstration is a huge sum. I want to be sure that the Department is prioritizing and coordinating these expenditures.
Mr. Secretary, I look forward to working with you in the limited time we have left this year to address this very important set of issues for our nation’s future.  Thank you.