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Public Statements

Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. DICKS. I rise in strong support of the Shimkus amendment, which will ensure that the NRC has the resources to carry out its responsibility with regard to the Nation's high-level waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

I regret the position that the NRC has taken on this issue. On the Appropriations Committee, it is our belief that the Commission has adequate funds to resume licensing activities for the Yucca Mountain project as called for in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

But the Commission simply has refused to act. The NRC claims it has the legal authority to ignore the law duly enacted by this Congress if the Agency isn't given enough money to ``finish the job.''

Under our Constitution, agencies are funded year to year. They are seldom, if ever, given enough money in 1 year to do everything the law tells them to do, especially for long-term projects.

In 2008, when the Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding started, Congress appropriated sufficient funds to the NRC to conduct the proceeding for that fiscal year. In 2009, we gave NRC enough money to carry out those responsibilities for another year. The NRC didn't stop because it didn't have the entire amount of money to finish the job. In fact, the NRC only stopped the licensing and refused to spend money appropriated for licensing based on a unilateral policy decision that the site is no longer workable.

Now, after being brought to Federal court for ignoring its statutory duty to decide the license application in 3 years, the NRC claimed--astoundingly--that it does not have to follow the law because, while it has plenty of money to resume the licensing process and move it forward, it doesn't have every dollar in hand that would be required to complete the process.

When Congress passes a law, appropriates money, and directs an agency to carry out an important government function during any given fiscal year, that agency cannot just thumb its nose and say we're not going to do that job at all because Congress didn't give us the money to do the following year's work. No agency has ever successfully told a court not to make it follow the law because in some future year it might not get enough money to do the job the law requires.

Allowing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission such power to effectively cancel Yucca Mountain after Congress has enacted a law directing that it be accomplished would be an affront to the Constitution, and it would shift the balance of power to executive agencies to evade congressionally mandated legal obligations.

The Federal appellate court has already made its displeasure with the NRC's legal position known. We need to do the same. The Shimkus amendment would assure that the Commission proceeds with the determination of whether Yucca Mountain is an appropriate location for a safe repository.

The amendment is budget neutral--fully offset by redirecting funding from DOE's departmental administration account.

I urge the adoption of the Shimkus amendment and yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. DICKS. The fact is that we passed a law that was signed by the President of the United States at that time. I can remember Congressman Udall was chair of the committee at that point. We passed a law that said do Yucca Mountain, and that law has not been repealed. That is still the law of the land.

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