Cantwell Presses Energy Secretary Perry on Alarming Budget Cuts That Weaken U.S. Energy Position

Cantwell Demands Answers on Hanford Commitments and U.S. Energy Grid Cyber Security

June 22, 2017

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) questioned the Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry on the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request. Sen. Cantwell expressed doubts that drastic cuts to the Department’s budget will allow the U.S. to effectively support nuclear cleanup sites, secure the energy grid, and remain a leader in the clean energy economy.

Sen. Cantwell made clear her position that, “The Department of Energy is a global leader in science and technology, with an unrivaled network of national laboratories. It is also key to our national security, when it comes to both nuclear and cyber threats,” said Sen. Cantwell. “The President’s budget proposes to slash many of DOE’s essential programs. It would devastate our emerging clean-energy jobs and our economy.”

According to the International Energy Agency, more than 30 trillion dollars will be invested in new renewable energy facilities and energy efficiency between now and 2040. “As this Committee heard recently, the costs of clean energy technologies have dropped between 41 percent and 94 percent since 2008,” Sen. Cantwell said. “This is a success story built on decades of strategic investments by the Department of Energy—and this is something that both Democratic and Republican Administrations have supported.”

Sen. Cantwell defended the work Department Of Energy scientists saying, “During your confirmation hearing, you committed to protecting science, protecting the men and women who conduct that science, so I have great concerns about what I think is a proposed cut that could affect as many as 1000 people at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.”

If implemented, the cuts to the Energy Department’s budget could result in the loss of thousands of jobs, threaten important scientific research, and stall American innovation in the energy sector.

Sen. Cantwell also called on Secretary Perry to commit to obligations and commitments to the Hanford Nuclear Site. “I am incredibly disappointed by the Administration’s approach to the Hanford cleanup mission. In light of the recent tunnel collapse at the Plutonium-Uranium Extraction facility—followed by the worker “take-cover” event at the Plutonium Finishing Plant—cutting the Richland Operations budget demonstrates a disregard for the health and safety of the people of my state,” said Sen. Cantwell.

“The Trump Administration needs to understand that, if you do not prioritize Hanford funding…we are going to have issues and serious problems.”   

Sen. Cantwell in a previous letter demanded Secretary Perry improve conditions and enhance safety measures for workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state, specifically to improve conditions in the tank farms and address chemical vapor exposure.

Sen. Cantwell noted that, “Hanford is the largest nuclear waste cleanup site in the entire world, and that is why you cannot do it on the cheap.” 

Sen. Cantwell also questioned budget cuts that would impact U.S. cybersecurity. “Another troubling area is the important priority for DOE on energy infrastructure. Our grid and energy networks are under cyber attack. From 2012 to 2016, reported cyber incidents against U.S. critical infrastructure more than doubled.” Sen. Cantwell said. “This morning I along with 18 of my colleagues are sending a second letter to the President reiterating that DOE should address this growing threat on our critical infrastructure.”

“During your confirmation hearing you reassured this committee that cybersecurity would be one of your top two priorities,” said Sen. Cantwell. Nevertheless, your budget slashes cyber funding by over 30 percent. So I want to see a larger investment in this very very critical area to our infrastructure.”

The video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement can be found here. 

Witness testimony will be available online immediately before the start of each hearing on the committee website.