Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said Tuesday that the Trump administration plans to give a boost to the uranium industry, which it has repeatedly tried to help.
Brouillette responded “yes” to a question from Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Manchin, Barrasso announce bill to revegetate forests after devastating fires Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs MORE (R-Wyo.) about whether the administration is “prepared to provide immediate relief for the uranium producers.”
“[The Department of] Commerce, along with the U.S. Department of Energy, the president of the United States — all determined that the loss of leadership in the nuclear industry represented a national security concern,” he said during a hearing at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The administration has in the past bolstered the industry including by adding uranium to a list of “critical minerals” deemed crucial to national security.
The Commerce Department has also issued a recommendation to help speed up production of all minerals on the list.
Meanwhile, at Tuesday’s hearing, Brouillette was forced to defend President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE’s proposed cuts to renewable energy in his budget request for fiscal 2021.
“It’s kind of a who’s who of backwards policy,” said Sen. Angus KingAngus KingNorth Dakota Republican latest House breakthrough COVID-19 case Texas House Republican tests positive for coronavirus in latest breakthrough case Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment MORE (I-Maine). “We want more efficient vehicles so let’s cut vehicle technologies by 81 percent. Or bioenergy technologies — let’s cut that by 82 percent ... solar minus 76, wind minus 78.”
Brouillette, in response, said that departmental research and development was being done “complex-wide” and that in some cases, the cuts were offset by research in other areas.
The energy chief also took heat from King and others over the proposed elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
“You did something that I didn’t think was possible, you cut something 173 percent. Now, the reason that’s possible is that you didn’t spend a significant part of the funds that were allocated by the Congress last year,” King said. “Not spending a substantial portion of the funds that Congress allocates is not following the law.”
Brouillette replied that the agency has to properly vet applicants who want to use the money for their projects.
“It’s not just the question of getting the money and moving it out the door, it’s getting applicants on the other side that are fully qualified to receive the money,” he said.
Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff Graham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet Trump, allies launch onslaught as midterms kick into gear MORE (R-Alaska), the committee’s chairwoman, also criticized the ARPA-E cut in her opening statement.
“What happens at ARPA-E is important for this country, important for the world, and certainly we’re going to encourage you to look again at that budget,” she said.
She and Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPelosi sets Thursday vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill Budget impasses mark a critical turning point in Biden's presidency Democrats urge Biden to go all in with agenda in limbo MORE (D-W.Va.) have recently introduced a sprawling energy bill that would promote research in up-and-coming renewables such as geothermal and wave technology.
That legislation has faced some criticism from those who would like to see more provisions to directly combat climate change, but it’s seen as the best chance this year for passing legislation to expand the use of cleaner forms of energy.
The president's budget proposal would cut the Energy Department's funding by 8 percent, though Congress has in the past ignored many of his proposals for cuts.
At a business meeting before Tuesday's hearing, the committee also advanced James Danly's nomination to be a commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to the full Senate in a 12-8 vote.