Senator Murray: Investing in Lowering Energy Costs, Protecting Our Grid, and Cutting-Edge Scientific Discovery is a No-Brainer
***WATCH: At hearing, Senator Murray discusses how investing in DOE’s work is critical to stay ahead of our competitors and keep the lights on in America***
***WATCH: Senator Murray questions witnesses on DOE budget proposal***
Washington, D.C. – Today, at a Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development subcommittee hearing on the President’s fiscal year 2024 budget request for the Department of Energy (DOE), including the National Nuclear Security Administration, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, highlighted the importance of providing robust funding in a bipartisan way to support the Department’s array of programs that help lower energy costs, protect the stability of our grid, and produce scientific breakthroughs.
“If we’re going to continue to lead on the world stage, we have to lock arms, work together, and make sure our funding keeps pace at this critical moment. And if we want to stay ahead, we can’t just focus on defense spending—we have to invest in the many other programs that keep our country strong, safe, and competitive,” said Senator Murray. “Today’s hearing is a prime example—because the work happening across the Department of Energy has tremendous implications for our national security and our global competitiveness.”
At the hearing, Senator Murray noted how the Department’s vital work helps keep our energy supplies cheap, clean, and abundant and helps ensure the stability of our energy grid—so that people across the country can go about their day and everyone from mom and pop shops to large corporations can do business in America. She also highlighted how DOE plays a vital role in supporting and conducting cutting-edge research that powers groundbreaking new scientific discoveries—helping maintain America’s role as a the top driver of innovation—including at national labs like the Pacific Northwest National Lab in Washington state.
“DOE keeps our energy grid secure. It reduces our dependence on foreign energy. It drives down energy prices, and a lot more. And the Department is leading the way on scientific discovery, supporting cutting-edge research,” said Senator Murray.
Importantly, Senator Murray warned of the consequences of failing to ensure our investments keep pace and of slashing funding for DOE’s work to lower energy costs, protect our grid, support cutting-edge research, and more—as House Republicans voted last week to do.
“House Republicans, as you know, have voted to cut overall funding back to fiscal year 2022 levels or worse,” said Senator Murray, asking Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk: “Can you give us some concrete examples of how cutting DOE back to those levels will hurt working-class Americans?”
“I’ll give you three specific examples of what this means,” replied Deputy Secretary Turk. For consumers, he explained that reverting just to FY22 funding levels would result in “a $62 million cut to weatherization” translating into higher energy bills for 12,000 Americans and would deny consumers $1 billion in rebates to lower their energy costs. For scientific research, Deputy Secretary Turk stated that the cuts House Republicans have voted to make would force DOE to lay off 5,200 scientists and staff at our national labs—which could force thousands to conduct their research elsewhere. And for American competitiveness, he stated that House Republicans’ proposed cuts—in this “very competitive moment with China … as we’re getting momentum”—would mean pulling back critical funding to invest in things like battery manufacturing to keep America competitive.
“So I think it’s fair to say that cuts of that magnitude would force your Department to really make some tradeoffs between key priorities like keeping pace with our competitors’ investments in research and innovation, protecting our nuclear arsenal, and a lot more?” Senator Murray asked.
“Absolutely,” replied Deputy Secretary Turk.
Senator Murray also underscored her commitment to ensuring the federal government lives up to its legal and moral obligation to clean up the Hanford site in Washington state and protect Hanford workers. She applauded the conceptual agreement on tank waste that DOE, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Tuesday, as well as the historic budget request for the Hanford site—but raised her concerns about the decrease in proposed funding for the Hanford Richland Office.
“I was encouraged to see a historic request for the Hanford site in Washington State, especially as compared to the fiscal year 2023 request which was completely insufficient,” began Senator Murray. “As I noted in my opening statement, I am pleased that DOE, Washington State Department of Ecology, and EPA have reached conceptual agreement after more than sixty mediation sessions.”
“In yesterday’s announcement, DOE also noted that the President’s proposed FY24 request is consistent with the conceptual agreement as it relates to tank waste—this is good news,” continued Senator Murray. “The federal government has a legal and moral obligation to clean up the Hanford site and protect Hanford workers—and I am certain you understand how strongly I feel about meeting that obligation.”
“While I am pleased your budget builds on the progress we have made at the Office of River Protection, specifically on the High Level Waste Facility’s construction, I am concerned you are taking on unnecessary risks at Hanford’s Richland Office,” stated Senator Murray. “We should not be robbing Peter to pay Paul. What conditions merited the $85.3 million decrease to Richland from fiscal year 2023, and what risks would we be taking on at this reduced level?”
“First of all let me completely agree there’s both a legal and a moral responsibility that all of us share in the Executive Branch and in Congress—and thank you for your leadership for many, many years on this issue,” replied Deputy Secretary Turk. “The conceptual agreement is a big, big deal, and it’s great to reach this milestone but we’ve got an awful lot of work going forward. Anyone who’s visited Hanford knows we’ve got a lot of work going forward for decades out there. Of our over $8 billion budget for the environmental management portfolio, $3 billion of that is for Hanford—that is the largest request in recent history for Hanford.”
“We’ve got to make thoughtful choices,” continued Deputy Secretary Turk. “And when we looked at that $3 billion envelope… we made choices—we made thoughtful choices—but we’d be eager to have further conversations with you and your staff to make sure that we’re all going forward in the way that we should at Hanford.”
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