Democratic News

Here is Sen. Bingaman’s opening statement from the Senate Energy Committee Feb. 10 hearing on the Department of Energy’s FY05 budget. Bingaman, D-NM, is the committee’s ranking member. "Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing. I would like to thank Deputy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow for taking time from his busy schedule to testify today. "The Department’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2005 increases by 1.2 percent. Within this small increase, I see a number of priorities, some of which I agree with, and others I have concern with. "I am concerned that the Office of Science, our nation’s premier funding source for the physical sciences declines by 2 percent. "I also see a disturbing trend for basic research across the executive branch. "For fiscal year 2005, funding for basic research increases by only 0.6 percent; when you exclude the NIH, it declines by 2.5 percent. "Basic research is our investment in the future, it will keep the U.S. competitive in the manufacturing sector – something we are rapidly loosing ground with in the world economy. "I see that the administration is aggressively pursuing hydrogen research. But the hydrogen economy’s growth is at the expense of other energy R&D programs such as DOE’s conservation research with our most energy intensive industries. This program is called “Industries of the Future”. "The Industries of the Future program declined 37 percent from fiscal year 2004, and 60 percent from fiscal year 2003. "The Industries of the Future program develops partnerships between industry and government to enable our steel, glass, paper and chemical industries to be energy efficient and competitive -– retaining manufacturing jobs in the United States. "I note that because of the OMB cap on discretionary spending, the Department is proposing to take off the budget $749 million from the Nuclear Waste Fund, which our nuclear utilities pay into to help license of Yucca Mountain – I look forward to testimony on this issue. "Within the environmental management program -– I am concerned about the lack of management. OMB’s Program Assessment Rating gave the environmental management program a score of 26 out of 100 for 'results and accountability.' This is not a very good score, and a cause for concern. "In contrast, the Office of Science had OMB program management scores ranging from 82-93 – but its budget is slated to decline by 2 percent while environmental management’s budget will increase by $433 million or 6.1 percent. "In New Mexico, I am very concerned about a number of trends in DOE’s environmental management efforts. "At Los Alamos, the Department has held back $69.5 million or 33 percent of its clean up budget for fiscal years 2003 and 2004 because DOE has not reached an enforceable agreement with New Mexico. For fiscal year 2005, Los Alamos is to receive $121 million. I understand $47 million or 39 percent of this amount will be held back if an agreement is not reached. "Let me close by mentioning one particular New Mexico laboratory worker that I am sure is similar to the other atomic workers that my fellow committee members have in their states. "My atomic worker’s name is State Representative Ray Ruiz. Representative Ruiz has been diagnosed with mesothelioma sarcoma from working with asbestos as an iron worker at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "He is concerned with the slow pace of the review of worker compensation claims made to the DOE under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. "Representative Ruiz attended hearings on this issue and witnessed fellow sick DOE workers in New Mexico become equally frustrated with the speed that these claims are processed. "I plan to ask some questions about the situation when we get to that part of the hearing. "Once again, I thank the Chairman for holding this hearing."

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