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Public Statements

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell Addresses the Nuclear Energy Assembly

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Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the following remarks Tuesday (as prepared) at the NEI Nuclear Energy Assembly regarding the nomination of Bill Ostendorff to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the future of American energy security:

"Thank you for having me.

"You've certainly come to Washington at the right time.

"Once again, a rise in gas prices is driving a national debate about energy. About how and where we get it, about how much we consume, about the effect of rising costs on families and businesses, and about how this all fits into our broader societal commitment to protecting the environment.

"Those of you here this morning have a particular point of view about the importance of nuclear energy, which as we all know, accounts for 20% of the electricity we use in this country and which is our number one source of emission-free electricity.

"The President, and members of both parties in Congress, including me, have supported the expansion of nuclear power over the years. And I'm proud of the fact that Kentucky is home to the only U.S.-owned uranium enrichment facility in the nation.

"Most people think of Kentucky as a coal state, which of course it is. What most people don't know is that it's also a nuclear state. For nearly 60 years, we've produced the uranium that the nuclear power industry in this country runs on at our Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Paducah.

"I see some folks here from USEC, which operates the facility, and I want to thank you for your continued commitment to this project and to the roughly 1,200 jobs it supports.

"Evidently, there are some in this Administration who don't recognize the value and potential of the Paducah facility and our domestic enrichment capability. So I will continue my efforts to educate them about its importance, as I'm sure you will as well.

"But I didn't come here this morning to talk about nuclear in particular -- except to say that the disaster at Fukushima has only underscored for all of us the importance of safety both here and abroad.

"The public wants assurances that a disaster like this will never happen here, and they deserve to know that you're doing everything in your power to make sure of it.

"Of course, Washington has a role to play here too.

"That's what the Nuclear Regulation Commission is all about.

"By formulating the policies, and developing the regulations that govern nuclear safety in America, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is meant to give the American people the confidence and the reassurance they expect and deserve when it comes to nuclear energy. Especially in the wake of a disaster like the one we saw in Japan on March 11.

"The NRC plays a vital role in keeping our nation safe.

"And that's why, last year, I recommended that the President nominate Bill Ostendorff to another term once his current term expires next month. This nomination would not only ensure that the NRC continues to have the votes it needs to make binding decisions it would also ensure that the commission continues to count among its number a man uniquely qualified to do the job.

"Commissioner Ostendorff joined the commission with the highest level of experience in the Navy's Nuclear Propulsion Program. He served our nation in uniform for 26 years, including service as the Commanding Officer of a nuclear attack submarine as well as having the command of an entire squadron of nuclear submarines.

"This means, among other things, that Bill Ostendorff is the only NRC Commissioner who has any real experience in operating, maintaining, and supervising a nuclear reactor.

"The main difference between the kinds of reactors he operated and those that many of you are responsible for is that his came with the added complexity of being mobile.

"He operated them, maintained them and ensured their safety, and his service record is stellar. That's one of the reasons why I initially recommended him to be a commissioner at the NRC. And that is why I've recommended his re-appointment.

"And there's no reason whatsoever his re-confirmation should be delayed another day.

"At a time when the President has asked the NRC to conduct a review of safety at existing US nuclear power plants, it is critical that the only commissioner who actually has any hands-on experience dealing with a nuclear reactor be allowed to continue his service.

"So this morning I call on those who continue to hold up this nomination to stop playing politics with this nomination and re-confirm this man to his post.

"Now, I wish I could say this is an isolated issue.

"But the truth is, when it comes to the larger energy debate, today's Democrats have taken political gamesmanship to new heights. And the Ostendorff nomination is emblematic, in some ways, of their overall approach.

"Republicans, for our part, have long called for an all-of-the above approach to energy. We don't think the fact that we're the world's largest consumer of energy is a problem so much as a challenge.

"And in our view, it's a challenge we can meet through the responsible development and expansion of our own resources, even as we continue to develop other sources of energy.

"We also think this is a view that most Americans share.

"Yet, at a time when people are looking for creative solutions to our energy problems, all we seem to get from Democrats in Washington is warmed over rhetoric and a dogmatic adherence to the status quo.

"Instead of hearing about how we can develop and expand our own resources with both traditional and new technologies, we get deflection and obfuscation.

"And instead of hearing that energy companies possess a potential solution to our problems, we hear that these companies themselves are the problem.

"This week, for example, Democrats will look to punish this industry with higher taxes that will only destroy jobs and lead to even higher prices at the pump, instead of encouraging them to find solutions and to create jobs here.

"American businesses are eager to tap both traditional energy resources and new ones.

"What they're getting from Washington is bureaucratic obstacles, red tape, and higher costs.

"So Americans are looking for answers. And they're getting gimmicks.

"None of this is my own opinion, well it is my opinion, but it also happens to be backed up by the Congressional Research Service. In March, the independent analysts at CRS were asked about the latest Democrat proposal. They're conclusion was that it would not only make oil and natural gas more expensive for U.S. consumers, but it would also likely increase our dependence on foreign sources of oil.

"What this means, of course, is that the only solution they're offering to high gas prices is a proposal that would drive them even higher.

"Beyond that, they insist there's nothing they can do.

"Well, I think the American people feel a little differently.

"I think most Americans believe that it's time to stop talking about what we can't do and start talking about what we can do.

"And if the President and Democrats in Congress are truly serious about lowering gas prices, lowering energy prices broadly, and making us less dependent on foreign sources of energy, here are a few suggestions for them to consider:

"First, if ever there was a moment to increase the development of energy here at home, it's now.

"For decades, Democrats have resisted efforts to tap our own domestic resources. Then, when prices go up, they tell us how many years it would take to get the product to market. It's time to take this excuse off the table by breaking the cycle.

"Second, Democrats need to allow energy companies to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that prevents companies that are authorized to explore here from getting to work.

"Third, they need to stop penalizing producers with new fees and threats of tax hikes, which only drive energy companies overseas and help our foreign competitors.

"And they need to call an end to the anti-energy crusade of the EPA.

"In short, we need to throw away the old playbook and face this crisis with the kind of creativity, independence, and common-sense that the American people are demanding of us.

"Democrats need to stop deflecting attention from their own complicity in our nation's over-dependence on foreign oil.

"They need to stop paying lip service to the need for domestic exploration while quietly supporting efforts to suppress it.

"They need to end an approach that hasn't changed since the Carter Administration.

"Just like Carter, they're more interested in using this crisis as an excuse to push for higher taxes than they are at solving the problem itself. And just like Carter, they're underestimating the frustration of the American people.

"And the nation continues to suffer for it -- in lost jobs, in lost independence, and in lost opportunity and growth.

"I've focused on gas prices in particular because that's what everyday Americans are concerned about most right now, and because in this particular area, the Obama administration has taken the Carter playbook to new heights.

"By cancelling dozens of leases, imposing a moratorium off the Gulf, arbitrarily extending public comment periods, and increasing permit fees, they've done just about everything they can to lock down our own energy sector and stifle the jobs that come with it.

"Meanwhile, neighboring countries like Cuba and Mexico have moved ahead with greater production of their own. Russia, Canada, and Greenland are actively seeking to tap into the Arctic, while we're not. Angola and other African nations are expanding their offshore drilling, while we're not. And Brazil has increased production, prompting President Obama to tell the Brazilian president that he hopes Americans will soon become one of the `best customers' of Brazilian oil -- rather than supporting American energy and the jobs that come with it.

"But I know I'm not breaking any news to the people in this room when I say that the list of delaying actions by this administration goes on and on and extends well beyond oil.

"In all these areas, the administration has had the same approach: the less American energy the better.

"If Republicans represent the all-of-the above approach, the Obama administration represents the none-of the above approach -- unless of course, you want to sell them some wind turbines, solar panels, or any other technology that we all support, but which is insufficient to meet the needs of our economy.

"Thankfully, other nations don't treat their resources the way the U.S. treats its. If they did, today's energy crisis would be even worse than it already is.

"But if recent events in the middle east suggest anything, it's that we shouldn't count on stability in the countries we depend on for so much of our energy. And that's why the Washington Democrats refusal to expand our development of anything outside of technologies that, even in the best circumstances, won't be widely used for decades, is totally indefensible from both an economic and a national security standpoint.

"Americans have struggled enough over the past two years.

"The least we can do is expand our own resources to help encourage this recovery.

"Now, the President likes to imply that his critics are stuck in the present when they should be preparing for the future instead.

"First of all, this is factually inaccurate, since Republicans have been offering an all-of-the above approach to our energy future for as long as I can remember.

"Secondly, the present isn't irrelevant to this conversation.

"The simple reality is that the wind isn't going to take kids to school.

"The sun isn't running the blender.

"As providers of energy, you all know the reality of what is available to bring online for American consumers.

"And when Washington adopts policies that prevent us from producing American energy from coal, nuclear, oil, gas, and nearly everything else, it is causing a problem, not preventing one.

"It should give us a measure of comfort that America's energy future doesn't rely on technologies that don't yet exist. This fact should impel us to improve the delivery of existing energy sources more safely, more efficiently, and more cheaply than ever before -- not pretend that we don't rely on them now and won't need them at all in the future.

"So it's time we brought a little more common sense to this debate.

"Republicans will continue to support an all of the above approach -- but all means all. We simply will not meet the challenges of the moment unless we use all the resources at our disposal. We've got the resources. We've got the technology. We need the jobs. And Americans have struggled enough. Let's come together on common-sense solutions that recognize our own potential.

"And let's do what the American people are asking of us.

"An all-of-the-above approach is what's needed. It's what the American people want.

"It's time Washington got out of the way."


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