Brouillette says administration plans to give a boost to uranium producers

Brouillette says administration plans to give a boost to uranium producers
© Greg Nash

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: House stimulus aims to stem airline pollution | Environmental measures become sticking point in Senate talks | Progressives propose T 'green stimulus' GOP blames environmental efforts, but Democrats see public health problems with stimulus Rand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate 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. 

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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 John TrumpTrump orders US troops back to active duty for coronavirus response Trump asserts power to decide info inspector general for stimulus gives Congress Fighting a virus with the wrong tools 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 KingSenators offer bill to extend tax filing deadline Russia using coronavirus fears to spread misinformation in Western countries Hillicon Valley: House passes key surveillance bill | Paul, Lee urge Trump to kill FISA deal | White House seeks help from tech in coronavirus fight | Dem urges Pence to counter virus misinformation 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. 

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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 senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC Schumer: Senate should 'explore' remote voting if coronavirus sparks lengthy break Turning the virus into a virtue — for the planet MORE (R-Alaska), the committee’s chairwoman, also criticized the ARPA-E cut in her opening statement.

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“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 ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinWhite House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package Some Democrats growing antsy as Senate talks drag on Senate fails to advance coronavirus stimulus bill for second time in two days 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.