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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the gentleman for yielding.

I rise to express my concern that an amendment offered by Mr. Turner that is contained in the en bloc amendments does not cure provisions in the underlying bill that weaken the enforcement of worker health and safety and that create a self-regulation regime for contractors at the National Nuclear Security Administration, which, I believe, will place profit above safety. Section 3115 would move the enforcement of worker health and safety from DOE's Office of Health, Safety and Security to the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Additionally, the legislation restricts the oversight authority of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which is a board that has played a vital role in independently addressing worker safety and whistleblower issues at large DOE projects.

To support my position, I would quote from this year's House Committee on Appropriations report accompanying the fiscal year 2013 energy and water bill:

The committee believes that having an independent assessment capability at the Department is important and supports the role of HSS.

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Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chair, I rise to express my concerns with an amendment offered by Mr. Turner contained in the en bloc amendment. I do not believe the Turner Amendment cures provisions of the underlying bill that weaken enforcement of worker health and safety, and create a self regulation regime for contractors at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). I believe these provisions place profit above safety.

Specifically, Section 3115 of H.R. 4310 would move enforcement of worker health and safety from Department of Energy's Office of Health, Safety and Security (HSS) to NNSA. Taking away the independent oversight that HSS provides at NNSA facilities is a mistake.

The House Committee on Appropriations in its report for the Fiscal Year 2013 Energy and Water bill was very clear on the value of HHS. It states, ``The Committee believes that having an independent assessment capability at the Department is important and supports the role of HSS in the areas of nuclear safety, worker safety and health, safeguards and security, cyber security and emergency management. The Committee agrees that the responsibility for protecting workers, the public, the environment, and national security assets rests with the Department's line management organizations. However, it is critical that the Department preserve the HSS authority to independently assess Departmental compliance and performance and to have access to and cooperation from all Departmental programs.''

Additionally, the legislation restricts the oversight authority of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB), a board that has played a vital role in independently addressing worker safety and whistle blower issues at large DOE projects. Again, the Fiscal Year 2013 Energy and Water report was unambiguous in expressing its support for DNFSB. It states, ``The Committee expects the DNFSB to continue to play a significant role in scrutinizing the Department's safety and security activities, including the reform initiatives underway in the Department that may impact projects under its jurisdiction.''

Further, the requirement that NNSA move towards ``performance-based oversight'' is misguided and will create a dangerous contractor self-regulation regime. While I do not believe that contractors will not take worker safety seriously, I do stand by the old adage that independent oversight is always more honest and rigid than self-evaluation.

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