[Senate Hearing 114-66]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
S. Hrg. 114-66
ELKIND AND REGALBUTO NOMINATIONS
ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED FOURTEENTH CONGRESS
CONSIDER THE NOMINATIONS OF JONATHAN ELKIND, TO BE AN ASSISTANT
SECRETARY OF ENERGY (INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS) AND MONICA C. REGALBUTO, TO
BE AN ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF ENERGY (ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT)
JUNE 16, 2015
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COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
LISA MURKOWSKI, Alaska, Chairman
JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming MARIA CANTWELL, Washington
JAMES E. RISCH, Idaho RON WYDEN, Oregon
MIKE LEE, Utah BERNARD SANDERS, Vermont
JEFF FLAKE, Arizona DEBBIE STABENOW, Michigan
STEVE DAINES, Montana AL FRANKEN, Minnesota
BILL CASSIDY, Louisiana JOE MANCHIN III, West Virginia
CORY GARDNER, Colorado MARTIN HEINRICH, New Mexico
ROB PORTMAN, Ohio MAZIE K. HIRONO, Hawaii
JOHN HOEVEN, North Dakota ANGUS S. KING, Jr., Maine
LAMAR ALEXANDER, Tennessee ELIZABETH WARREN, Massachusetts
SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, West Virginia
Karen K. Billups, Staff Director
Patrick J. McCormick III, Chief Counsel
Angela Becker-Dippmann, Democratic Staff Director
Sam E. Fowler, Democratic Chief Counsel
C O N T E N T S
Murkowski, Hon. Lisa, Chairman, and a U.S. Senator from Alaska... 1
Cantwell, Hon. Maria, Ranking Member, and a U.S. Senator from
Elkind, Jonathan, Nominee to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy
(International Affairs)........................................ 6
Regalbuto, Dr. Monica C., Nominee to be Assistant Secretary of
Energy (Environmental Management).............................. 12
ALPHABETICAL LISTING AND APPENDIX MATERIAL SUBMITTED
Cantwell, Hon. Maria
Opening Statement............................................ 2
Written Statement............................................ 4
Opening Statement............................................ 6
Written Testimony............................................ 9
Responses to Questions for the Record........................ 53
Murkowski, Hon. Lisa
Opening Statement............................................ 1
Regalbuto, Dr. Monica C.
Opening Statement............................................ 12
Written Testimony............................................ 14
Responses to Questions for the Record........................ 38
TO CONSIDER THE NOMINATIONS OF JONATHAN ELKIND TO BE AN ASSISTANT
SECRETARY OF ENERGY (INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS) AND MONICA C. REGALBUTO TO
BE AN ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF ENERGY (ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT)
TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 2015
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:09 a.m. in
room SD-366, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Lisa
Murkowski, Chairman of the Committee, presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. LISA MURKOWSKI,
U.S. SENATOR FROM ALASKA
The Chairman. I call to order the Energy Committee hearing
this morning. We are here today to consider two of the
President's nominees for the Department of Energy.
Mr. Jonathan Elkind has been nominated to be the Assistant
Secretary of International Affairs. He currently serves as the
Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary for that office.
Dr. Monica Regalbuto has been nominated to be the Assistant
Secretary for Environmental Management. She currently serves as
the Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary for that office.
Both of these nominees appeared before our Committee during
previous Congresses. We favorably reported both nominations on
a timely basis but neither nomination received a vote on the
Floor last year.
Mr. Elkind and Dr. Regalbuto, I welcome you both back to
the Committee and appreciate not only your continued
willingness to serve but also to do so in the face of delay.
After legislative hearings in this Committee featuring 22,
22, 26 and then 42 energy related bills, our agenda today may
seem considerably lighter or at least easier to digest and
easier to report on. Our obligation to provide advice and
consent to the President under the appointment's clause of the
Constitution is no less important than discharging our
legislative responsibilities, so hearings on nominations, of
course, are also part of our work.
The decisions that are made by individuals in the
Administration and positions subject to Senate confirmation
often have lasting effects on our nation. The decisions of the
nominees before us today will be no exception. The positions
for which they have been nominated are important within DOE,
capable of affecting everything from our international
relations to the cleanup of nuclear waste.
Your nominations are helped by the fact that Secretary
Moniz has shown himself to be someone who will work with us and
who we can work with, even if we do not always agree with him.
Not only has Secretary Moniz made himself available to testify
before the Committee to provide us briefings, he has also
responded to our questions both in Committee and out. He has
directed many other DOE officials to do the same.
I greatly appreciate the level of communication that we
have had back and forth between the Department of Energy, my
office and this Committee.
Mr. Elkind and Dr. Regalbuto, I trust that if you are
confirmed you will continue the positive relationship between
the Department of Energy and this Committee.
I would also note this hearing offers an opportunity for
you to hear what is important to us. We expect that you will
take that back to DOE with you and that you will work with us
I turn now to my Ranking Member and then we will swear the
individuals in and proceed with the hearing.
STATEMENT OF HON. MARIA CANTWELL,
U.S. SENATOR FROM WASHINGTON
Senator Cantwell. Thank you, Chairman Murkowski, for
calling this hearing and for having these qualified nominees
before us today.
Dr. Regalbuto has been nominated to lead the Department's
Office of Environmental Management. The office is responsible
for cleanup of the environmental contamination that resulted
from five decades of nuclear weapons production. This is an
extremely critical assignment, not only for the importance of
cleaning up these sites but for the complexity of the
undertaking and the sheer scale of the problem.
The Office of Environmental Management counts for about
one-fifth of the Department's nearly $30 billion annual budget.
This program is especially important to the State of Washington
which is the home to the Hanford site, which is the largest,
most complex and most expensive of all of the Department's
Dr. Regalbuto is extremely qualified for this position. She
holds a doctorate degree, and for the past 15 years, she has
held increasingly senior positions at Argonne National
Laboratories and within the Department of Energy's Office of
Nuclear Energy and Office of Environmental Management. For the
past year, she has been the Principal Deputy Assistant for
I will have some very important questions for you today
about both tank vapors and our process moving forward and the
324 building on the site, and I look forward to hearing your
responses on that.
I also want to welcome Dr. Elkind, who has been nominated
to lead the Department's Office of International Affairs. This,
too, is an extremely important position, responsible for the
Department's International Energy Policy and International
Cooperation in Energy, Science and Technology. I look forward
to asking him questions, as well.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for this important nominations
[The statement of Ranking Member Maria Cantwell follows:]
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The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Cantwell.
Mr. Elkind and Dr. Regalbuto, the rules of the Committee
which apply to all nominees require that they be sworn in
connection with their testimony. So I would ask that you both
please rise and raise your right hand?
Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to
give to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Mr. Elkind. Yes.
Dr. Regalbuto. Yes.
The Chairman. Before you begin your statement I will ask
three questions addressed to each nominee before this
Will you be available to appear before this Committee and
other Congressional Committees to represent Departmental
positions and respond to issues of concern to Congress?
Mr. Elkind. Yes.
Dr. Regalbuto. Yes.
The Chairman. Are you aware of any personal holdings,
investments or interests that could constitute conflict or
create the appearance of such a conflict should you be
confirmed and assume the office to which you have been
nominated by the President?
Mr. Elkind. No.
Dr. Regalbuto. No.
The Chairman. Are you involved or do you have any assets
held in blind trust?
Mr. Elkind. No.
Dr. Regalbuto. No.
The Chairman. Thank you both.
Mr. Elkind, let us begin with you if you would like to
provide five minutes of comments to the Committee and then Dr.
I would also welcome either of you to introduce any family
members that you may have with you. We all know that these jobs
are not easy jobs. They require a lot of time, and the support
of family is always nice. So it is good to be able to recognize
them. When it is your time to proceed, if you would like to
introduce your family we would certainly be happy to recognize
Mr. Elkind, we will begin with you.
STATEMENT OF JONATHAN ELKIND TO BE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF
ENERGY (INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS)
Mr. Elkind. Thank you so much, Chairman Murkowski, Ranking
Member Cantwell, members of the Committee. I'm glad for the
opportunity to appear today as you consider my candidacy to be
the Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs.
I'm honored to have been nominated again for this post by
President Obama and deeply appreciate the continuing confidence
that he and Secretary Moniz have expressed by asking me to
serve in this capacity.
I would like to introduce and thank my wife of 27 years,
Suzanne Mintz, as well as two of our three sons, Sam and Noah.
My wife and sons, indeed as you note, Chairman Murkowski,
understand that government service is an endeavor that affects
not only the person serving, but also the entire family.
The Chairman. Welcome.
Mr. Elkind. Thank you.
In 2009 I was appointed as Principle Deputy Assistant
Secretary for Policy and International Affairs. This was my
second tour with the Department but by coincidence my family's
prior ties to DOE go back to my childhood. My father was a
cancer researcher who spent portions of his career at
Brookhaven and Argonne National Laboratories. The fact that I'm
with you today, however, had more to do with my parents overall
attitudes about career choice then with the particulars of my
When I was an undergraduate my parents counseled me to find
a professional niche that I felt passionate about, a place
where I would want to make a contribution. Applying that
guidance, for over 25 years now I have focused on international
energy issues. I've worked inside the government under
Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
I've also worked as a private sector energy consultant and as a
think tank researcher.
From these experiences I know how important it is for the
United States to work effectively on energy issues with our
foreign partners. We need strong ties that allow us to
understand where markets are heading and where there are
opportunities for U.S. businesses and where there breakthroughs
and flash points can emerge.
Exactly on these fronts DOE has made and is making
contributions that enhance the ability of the United States to
achieve the energy outcomes that we need and desire. We apply
knowledge of energy technologies, markets and policies to
pursue U.S. objectives in international energy security, clean
energy development and national security issues. We provide
leadership on critical energy security engagements around the
globe. We help address energy opportunities, challenges and in
some cases, crises.
Some examples include the following:
Ukraine. Since the start of Russia's aggression the energy
dimensions of the crisis in Ukraine have required careful
attention and strong engagement. Ukraine needs assistance with
effective energy planning, and my team has mobilized technical
expertise to assist Kiev and to reduce its monopoly or near
monopoly reliance on Russia for certain fuels. Moreover since
the G7 Leaders Summit last year we have lead U.S. efforts to
develop a collective energy security agenda among G7 partners
and the European Union.
Israel. Few countries face the particular energy challenges
that Israel does, so we engage with Israel on critical issues
like energy infrastructure protection, natural gas technical
workshops, energy storage and the energy/water nexus. We aim to
help Israel enhance its energy security, and to that end we
conduct annual meetings as well as more frequent workshops and
The Western Hemisphere. Some of the most important changes
in the entire energy world are happening within our own
hemisphere. In light of this it is natural that we have
significantly intensified our engagements with Mexico and
Canada, with Caribbean partners and with others in the
hemisphere seeking to engage in the spirit of all of the above
in collaborations based on good technology, sound economics and
strong environmental performance.
Last, the energy/water nexus. We have started to expand our
collaborations on the numerous and critical linkages between
our energy and water systems. Many foreign partners seek to
work with DOE to understand both the technical and the policy
dimensions of these linkages.
For example, how to develop shale gas in water scarce
regions. This is a key emerging area, an area where the United
States stands to benefit from providing leadership.
If I am fortunate enough to be confirmed by the Senate,
these are the kinds of areas that will be my focus. I also look
forward to working with this Committee to identify other
opportunities to advance our energy objectives. I hope to
secure your support so that I may have this opportunity.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Elkind follows:]
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The Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Elkind.
Dr. Regalbuto, welcome.
STATEMENT OF DR. MONICA C. REGALBUTO TO BE ASSISTANT SECRETARY
OF ENERGY (ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT)
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you.
Chairman Murkowski, Ranking Member Cantwell and members of
the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before
you today as President Obama's nominee for Assistant Secretary
for Environmental Management at the United States Department of
I would like to begin my statement by expressing my
gratitude to the President for the confidence in me that he has
demonstrated in his nomination. I am honored and humbled to be
here, and should I be confirmed I will do my best to meet that
confidence. I would also like to thank Secretary Moniz for his
support and for his leadership at the Department of Energy.
Professional achievement is seldom an individual effort. I
have had the privilege of working with a multitude of talented
people throughout my career as a chemical engineer. There are
countless family members, friends, mentors and colleagues who
have done so much over the years to make this day possible.
I want to especially thank and recognize my husband, John,
for always being supportive and patient and for my adult
children, Ricky, Carol and Robby, who are now on their ways to
productive careers. I am very proud of them.
Lastly I would not be here without the loving support of my
parents, Horacio and Conchita, for instilling in me great
values during my childhood and for my parents-in-law, who I
consider my second set of parents.
Madam Chair, after completing my Ph.D. at the University of
Notre Dame I joined Argonne National Laboratory in 1988. I
began my career supporting the development of technologies for
the treatment of high-level waste at the Department of Energy
Plutonium Production sites.
After developing strong technical skills, I joined BP-AMOCO
in 1996 where I enhanced my skills in managing complex
projects, large projects and multidisciplinary staff in an
I returned to Argonne in 2001 and became the Head of the
Process Chemistry and Engineering Department where I worked on
new technologies for the treatment of used nuclear fuel.
In 2008, I had the unique opportunity to join the
Department of Energy, Office of Environmental Management where
I served as a Senior Program Management supporting their
strategic mission in the waste processing area.
In 2010 I accepted a position as the Deputy Assistant
Secretary for Fuel Cycle Technologies within the Office of
Nuclear Energy. In this position, I was responsible for
directing the research and development program involving 10
national laboratories, 33 universities and over 400 scientists
and 300 professors.
I moved back to the Office of Environmental Management in
June of 2014 as the Associate Principle Deputy Assistant
Secretary. In this capacity I am responsible for leading EM's
mission units and advancing EM's mission cleanup across the DOE
Madam Chair, the Manhattan Project was a critical component
of our success in World War II and the Cold War. The
communities and regions that were home to these sites have made
significant sacrifices for our nation and the cleanup mission
of the Environmental Management Program is both a legal and a
I would like to mention a few of the important projects I
have worked on in the past year.
I have been involved in the recovery efforts of the Waste
Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico. We mapped out an
ambitious recovery plan and we're making substantial progress.
We recently completed the interim closing of panel six and
panel seven, room seven, activities necessary to isolate the
nitrate salt bearing waste of the WIPP underground. And the
Department remains committed to opening the facility.
At Savannah River, workers at the Defense Waste Processing
Facility (DWPF) marked a milestone for the site's liquid waste
work. Since beginning operations in 1996, DWPF has poured more
than 15 million pounds of glass and has immobilized more than
55 million curies of radioactivity.
Additionally, there are numerous ongoing projects that
address critical cleanup issues across the complex such as the
demolition of K31 building at Oak Ridge, demolition of the
vitrification facility and main process building at West Valley
and removal of approximately 680 pounds of chromium from the
ground water near the Columbia River at Richland.
The EM footprint has been reduced by 90 percent since 1989,
but some of our biggest challenges remain ahead. Safe retrieval
and treatment of Hanford tank waste is a critical part of EM's
mission. In addition, completion of tank waste immobilization
is an important element of the environmental legacy cleanup at
Many priorities remain. Much is going on in cleanup work at
Paducah and Portsmouth, and I look forward to tackling these
challenges if I am confirmed.
I believe my background, experience and commitment have
prepared me to lead the Office of Environmental Management
during this particular critical time, and I welcome the
opportunity to continue my service to the nation as Assistant
Secretary for EM.
If confirmed, I pledge to work closely with this Committee
and others in Congress to ensure that we continue the safe
cleanup of the nation's Cold War environmental legacy.
Madam Chair, thank you again for the opportunity to appear
before you and your Committee today. I look forward to
answering any questions you and your Committee members may
[The prepared statement of Dr. Regalbuto follows:]
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The Chairman. Thank you, Dr. Regalbuto.
Mr. Elkind, let me begin with you. At your confirmation
hearing last Congress I asked you about oil and gas exports.
You said to me, and I will quote your statement: ``It's a very
important issue. It's one that has my full attention in my
current role. If I am confirmed, please rest assured that this
is something that will be very, very much a focus that I will
be watching very closely.''
Those were your words back in December of '13. We are now
here in June of 2015. We have seen studies in this intervening
time period from EIA, CBO, GAO, Columbia University, Rice
University, Harvard Business School, Brookings Institute, Aspen
Institute, and many more.
I know that the licensing of exports goes through the
Commerce Department so I understand the jurisdictional issues
here, but I am asking you, as the Assistant Secretary of
International Affairs, really more as a subject matter expert,
if not a regulator, a very direct and a very limited question.
Would U.S. allies welcome the option to purchase American crude
Mr. Elkind. Thank you, Madam Chair, for that question.
As I said in December of '13, I still believe very much now
it is a terribly, terribly important set of issues, and I am
well aware of the focus that this has had under your
Chairmanship and before. I'm well aware of the analysis that
has been conducted by this Committee including the most recent
piece entitled, Rendering Vital Assistance.
As you will be aware, of course, the United States, today,
remains a major importer of crude oil, seven million barrels a
day. It's a market change from where we were as recently as six
or seven years ago when our imports were at a level of ten and
a half million barrels a day. Similarly we have already seen
reductions of about two million barrels a day in total
consumption by the United States.
So it is in fact the case today already that our allies,
our friends and others in the single global oil market are
seeing benefits that come from the very dramatic increases in
U.S. oil production and from the reduced consumption. There is
simply more oil available on the market.
The Chairman. Again, my question is pretty limited. Do you
think that our friends and allies would welcome the opportunity
to be able to purchase American crude?
Mr. Elkind. Madam Chair, I believe that our friends and
allies are already seeing benefits that have come from the
changes that have taken place in our production and our demand
for oil, so I believe that benefits are already accruing.
The Chairman. Let me ask more specifically as to what is
going on with the negotiations with Iran. DOE, of course, is
actively involved in the negotiations with Iran. We have seen
Secretary Moniz directly with Secretary Kerry in many of these
discussions. I have argued that we should not lift sanctions on
Iranian oil while at the same time we effectively maintain the
export ban on American oil which, in my view, is akin to
sanctions on U.S. oil producers. Can you commit to me that DOE
will consider the consequences for American producers of any
sort of deal on Iran sanctions?
Mr. Elkind. Chairman Murkowski, I certainly can commit to
you that all of the implications both on the non-proliferation
side and on the oil market side are being very, very carefully
considered and will be considered in the weeks ahead.
The Chairman. Let me ask about the Arctic then. When you
look at international scientific cooperation really the Arctic
is this emerging area where, I think, it is clear we need to
see greater cooperation. Many of the research needs in the
region cross political border or are in more international
What level of cooperation does DOE have through the Office
of International Affairs with other Arctic nations including
Russia on Arctic research and what can we do to build that out
Mr. Elkind. Thank you again for the question. It is a very
important time indeed for a focus on the Arctic in that the
United States has just this year assumed a two year Chair of
the Arctic Council, as you will be well aware. That role is led
by the State Department, Admiral Papp. We at DOE, however,
participate very actively in the energy-related discussions
that go on in that context.
You'll be aware, I believe, that the National Petroleum
Council was asked by Secretary Moniz to engage in a study
looking at issues surrounding prudent development of energy in
the Arctic and those results were released about six weeks ago.
We're also engaged in some very interesting collaborations
at an early stage with our Canadian and also with our Mexican
colleagues. I alluded to the very dramatic changes that have
been happening in the North American context and that also
includes our neighbors to the North and the South.
We are interested in looking at energy systems for isolated
communities. It is just as applicable in a village setting in
Alaska or in the Canadian North as it is in places elsewhere
around the world far away in Africa, in South Asia.
The key is to focus on cost reductions for hybrid renewable
and fossil fuel energy systems and microgrids. This is an area
where we see lots of opportunity for productive international
collaborations, and it's something that, we think, has a lot of
promise, not only in the North American context, but also
The Chairman. We would certainly agree with that, and we
would invite you to come up to Alaska to see some of the very
innovative things that we are doing just with the microgrids.
Mr. Elkind. Please tell me where I sign.
The Chairman. I will let you know. Fishing season is on.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Dr. Regalbuto, obviously worker safety is paramount out at
Hanford. One of the issues is tank farm safety, particularly as
it relates to vapors. I know you are aware of the Savannah
River National Laboratory report on tank vapors and worker
I want to ask you about whether DOE will be taking action
within the next year to provide protective equipment and
detection devices for the workforce there?
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you for your question, Senator. We do
share the fact that the number one priority for the Department
of Energy and for myself is the protection of the workers,
followed by the protection of the facilities where they work.
It is imperative that we provide an environment where the
workers go home the same way they came in.
I am aware of the vapor issue at Hanford, and it is a very
important issue to me.
I'm aware of the Savannah River report, and we are in the
process of implementing the recommendations of the report.
We're actually looking at ways to institutionalize many of
these recommendations so that the lessons learned don't change
on a day-to-day or as conditions in the tanks change.
We look forward to bringing that protection equipment to
the workers, as specifically PPE, that is lighter, allowing the
workers to work more efficiently and allow us to continue our
retrievability schedule for the tanks. But we certainly will
not do that unless we can do that safely.
There are a number of new areas that we would like to
explore in terms of worker protection, and that is what is
called the science of safety in which we actually bring, as
part of our technology development program, new activities
where we can actually enhance the quality of the workers as
they conduct their day-to-day operations.
So if confirmed I look forward to continue to working with
you and briefing you in subjects that will allow us to
institutionalize our worker safety protection throughout the
complex, not just at Hanford.
Senator Cantwell. Well, thank you for saying that you are
implementing lighter protective equipment and detective
devices. I will look for a written response from you on exactly
when you think the timing of that is because we want that done
as soon as possible. I am not going to pin you to a specific
date, but if you provide us that information--we are holding
the Secretary accountable to this timeframe.
On the 324 building, it is one of the most significant
cleanup projects left at Hanford due to its high level of
radioactivity and proximity to the Columbia River. I have been
assured many times that this material has not seeped into the
soil beneath, into the ground water and that we will be able to
get this cleanup done in time. Can you give me some specificity
about the remediation on that contamination and the timeframe
in which that will happen?
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you for your question, Senator.
Building 324 is definitely one of our buildings that is in the
high risk category in addition to other facilities that I'm
sure you're very familiar with, like the plutonium finishing
plant and the sludge in Kay Basin.
For the 325 building, by the end of Fiscal Year '16 we plan
to finish the mock up, develop the design of what needs to be
done in order to excavate and remove the soil that is beneath
the building. My understanding is that the plume has not moved
and it's not expected to move in a quickly manner, but the
building right now is stable. Once we start excavation and
removal of the contaminants that is when we put the workers at
risk. So the mock up will serve the purpose of flaws to make
sure that when we conduct these operations we will actually do
this in a safe manner. So by the end of '15, Fiscal Year '16,
we should have the design and the mock up ready to implement
Senator Cantwell. At what rate is the plume traveling
through the soil and how much time before it reaches a water
source? What do you think the timeframe on that is?
Dr. Regalbuto. Currently the scientists that we have from
the national laboratories including PNNL have taken a look at
the plume and they're continually monitoring. If we don't
disturb it, it will not be at a high rate, you know, it will be
in the order of years. But once we start disturbing the soil
then we do have to keep an active eye on the plume because when
you introduce new and foreign material that's when the plume
may travel. So we will have to do assessing of the traveling of
the plume as we do the cleanup simultaneously.
Senator Cantwell. Isn't it true that we do not know how to
treat some of the chemicals that are there, though?
Dr. Regalbuto. I think that the current process is there
are some treatment methods but they're not the best, so they
are looking at alternatives for the treatment methods. And we
will have good answers for you by the end of the calendar year.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you. I will have some follow up on
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The Chairman. Senator Barrasso.
Senator Barrasso. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Congratulations to both of you and to your families,
welcome to the Committee, again.
Dr. Regalbuto, since 2009 the Department of Energy has
repeatedly violated its own written policy and violated Federal
law when managing the public stockpile of excess uranium. As a
result the Department of Energy has failed to obtain a fair
return on this uranium for American taxpayers. The Department's
mismanagement of this stockpile has also contributed to
volatility in the uranium market and has led to job losses in
states like my state of Wyoming. Between 2013-2014 employment
among U.S. uranium producers fell 32 percent. Employment among
U.S. uranium producers is now at the lowest level since 2006.
Last month I, along with Senators Markey, Cornyn and
Heinrich, introduced S. 1428. It is called the Excess Uranium
Transparency and Accountability Act. This is clearly a
bipartisan bill when you take a look at who those four co-
This would bring transparency and accountability to the
Department of Energy's management of the public stockpile of
excess uranium. Specifically the bill would require the
Department to maximize the value of this uranium for the
The bill would also require that the Department give the
American public a say in how it will manage this uranium in the
near and the distant future.
Finally, the bill would codify the Department of Energy's
recent decision not to transfer more than 21 hundred metric
tons of uranium in calendar year 2016 and thereafter.
If confirmed you will play a significant role in managing
the public stockpile of excess uranium. I would like to know
whether you support this bipartisan bill, S. 1428, the Excess
Uranium Transparency and Accountability Act and if you are in a
position to discuss the bill today.
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you for your question, Senator. If
confirmed, as Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management
I do recognize we are the recipients of the transactions of the
uranium market. I understand that the Secretary has always
taken very seriously not having a negative impact on the
uranium market, the domestic uranium market, and it's really a
very difficult balancing act to try to manage that uranium
market and no negative impact with the mission and needs of
other parts of the Department.
We certainly look at what needs to be done every year, and
we certainly agree with you that transparency is critical in
these transactions. In the most recent determination I
understand there was a period of public comment. In fact I
believe there were two periods of public comment, and those
comments were taken into consideration during the determination
for the latest secretarial determination.
If confirmed I look forward to continued conversations with
you and your staff regarding this very important issue.
Senator Barrasso. Well, thank you. I think transparency and
accountability are key, and I am going to submit some written
questions for your consideration because I would really like to
know some specific responses regarding your views on the bill
before the Committee moves forward with your nomination.
One other point. In April I sent Secretary Moniz a letter
expressing concern about the Department's failure to conduct
oversight on uranium transactions between Fluor, B and W, and
the Traxys Group. Since 2011, the Department of Energy has
transferred roughly $900 million of publicly-owned uranium
which has financially benefitted these two companies. I believe
it is especially important that the Department conduct
oversight of these transactions now that Daniel Poneman, former
Deputy Secretary of Energy, has actually joined the Board of
Directors of one of these companies, Traxys.
I am deeply troubled that Traxys has hired Mr. Poneman. Mr.
Poneman led the Department of Energy when the agency violated
Federal law with respect to uranium transactions that
benefitted this company of which he is now on the Board. I
think the Department should take steps to bring transparency to
transactions involving this company, Traxys, in which he now
sits on the Board.
For example, I think the Department should condition its
future transfers of excess uranium on requirement that one
company, Fluor, publicly disclose its contracts with Traxys.
The Department's response to my April letter did not address
whether the Department would take that step.
If confirmed would you be willing to help make Fluor's
contracts with Traxys public?
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you for your question, Senator. I am
familiar with the current process. From the Office of
Environmental Management point of view, we barter for services.
So we get credit for those services as soon as we transfer the
material, and I understand that there is an additional step
after that that you just described.
If confirmed, I look forward to providing additional
information from the appropriate people that can get back to
you on those issues.
Senator Barrasso. Well, thank you, because I believe this
is a reasonable request. I think it will help the Department of
Energy restore confidence in its own management of the public
stockpile of excess uranium if we could have this, sort of,
Thank you, Madam Chairman.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Barrasso.
Senator Wyden. Thank you, Madam Chair. Dr. Regalbuto, I
want to turn to Hanford as well and get a sense of what you are
thinking in the year after we met in my office.
The Government Accountability Office issued a report just a
few weeks ago and stated that over the past 25 years the
Department of Energy has spent $19 billion trying to make the
high level tank safer and developing technology to process the
56 million gallons of high level waste that are stored in these
leaky, underground tanks. And they found that a gallon of the
waste has been treated and the tanks are really no safer.
So my question is, given the fact you have had a year to
reflect on this, what would change on your watch?
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you for your question, Senator.
I do share the concern of the leaking tanks at Hanford and
your constituents. I think that is one of the top priorities in
the Office of Environmental Management. Tank integrity is
certainly something to be concerned, and I look forward to
continue to work in those areas.
The best way and the only permanent way to address tank
waste is to immobilize it and to properly dispose of it as we
move forward. Under the current situation at WTP it is
recognized that as currently designed that facility has too
many technical issues and you're aware, I'm familiar with
those. And I, in the past year, have been looking at coming
into the, you know, technical issue resolution for the high
level waste facility and the pretreatment facility.
In addition to that the Secretary certainly is moving in
the path of immobilizing as soon as possible as much inventory
as possible at the site, and we are looking at a path of
initiating activities of the low activity waste as soon as
possible. That facility does not have the technical issues that
the other two have, so the path is a parallel path,
immobilization, while we determine what happens at the other
Senator Wyden. Doctor, respectfully, that is very much
along the lines of what I have been told for what seems like
years now, so I will hold the record open. If you could state
in writing, specifically, what would be different on your
watch, that is what I am really looking for and that would be
Let me turn to one other question with respect to Hanford.
This deals with what I consider to be a culture of hostility
against the whistle blowers at Hanford. This was confirmed by
the fact that the Department's own Oversight Office last June
found that only 30 percent of Federal employees in the office
that oversee the high level radioactive tanks felt that they
could come forward and actually challenge a management
decision. When I looked at the history, particularly in four
recent cases, two whistle blowers were fired, Dr. Thomas Sites
and Donna Busche. We looked at four contractors overall,
Bechtel, URS, Washington River Protection Solutions and the
Computer Science Corporation and the Government either found
that these contractors were retaliating or the contractors just
were not cooperating at all.
What would you do to end this culture of hostility against
the whistle blowers at Hanford?
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you for your question, Senator. I
recognize that there has been not the best culture with respect
to whistle blowers. I will assure you that the Department of
Energy and I personally take very serious this issue. We must
have a culture at all of our sites if we are to achieve our
mission of cleaning up the environment and that is that every
worker, either in the Federal or contractor side, should be
able to freely come and express any disagreement, issues and
The whistle blower program is really what keeps us honest
and keeps us into a path of moving forward. And I certainly
support that moving forward.
Senator Wyden. Doctor, I consider you very qualified to
lead the Office of Environmental Management. I appreciate our
discussion before. There is no question in my view about your
technical capability to carry out this office, and I am going
to support voting in favor of reporting your nomination to the
I will tell you until I see some corrective action,
concrete action, by the Department to make changes at Hanford
in both of these areas to address that, I think,
extraordinarily important report that came from the
Governmental Accounting Office that I quoted before and to
change this culture of hostility at Hanford with respect to the
whistle blowers, I will be objecting to the Senate proceeding
to your nomination.
I hope that we can see some corrections before that time,
and I want you to understand this is not a judgment with
respect to your abilities because I have been impressed with
our discussions. But we have got to get some changes.
This has become what amounts to the longest running battle
since the Trojan War. It just goes on and on at Hanford. The
money just evaporates, as noted by the Governmental Accounting
Office, and I mentioned those four specific cases. That is not
an abstract question. Those are specific issues.
So I hope that we will get this corrected, and I want you
to understand that my judgment with respect to how I am going
to vote in Committee is because I consider you qualified. I
want this corrected, and it is going to have to be soon.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Wyden.
Senator Capito. Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank you both for your public service and
dedication to the country. Thank you so much for being here
I am going to, kind of, go along with questioning as the
Chair moved forward only instead of oil exports I would like to
talk about LNG.
Mr. Elkind, thanks to obviously the innovations in energy
exploration we have been given several opportunities, new
opportunities, in the global markets. Many people think of the
shale gas boom as being in the Western states, but as you know,
I am from West Virginia. Our state is blessed with vast
resources that we really do not know what the reserves are and
we are discovering how massive they are. I think this presents
great opportunities for us.
In recent years recent data from the DOE has shown that we
have more than enough natural gas in this country to power an
industrial renaissance back here in the United States and in
West Virginia and also to be able to export natural gas.
What effects do you see the shale gas boom here will have
on global energy markets? If our nation can trade with energy,
our energy producing materials with our allies, such as
Ukraine, you mentioned Ukraine in some of your opening
statements. I believe this could have a great impact on that
region. What is your outlook on that?
Mr. Elkind. Senator, thank you for that question. This has
been one of the most exciting pieces of the global energy scene
to watch is the development of previously unanticipated natural
gas reserves in the United States. Obviously it is the fruit of
long labors conducted jointly by industry with participation of
the Departments through about a 15 year period.
It is a very good thing that there is greater diversity of
natural gas in the global market, and as you will know the
Department has been reviewing applications for exports as is
called for under the Natural Gas Act. And we will see, by the
beginning of next year, the first exports of LNG from the
United States with the expectation should the already approved
projects move ahead that we will become one of the largest LNG
exporters around the globe.
It is important to note that that doesn't automatically
answer whether where natural gas will flow U.S. exports. For
example, some of the countries the treaty was referring to,
Ukraine and others in Central and Eastern Europe that most
particularly need to have more choices. There are steps that
they also need to take in terms of further development of their
Senator Capito. Right.
Mr. Elkind. For natural gas. So this is an area that we are
engaging on continuously with Ukraine, with other EU, with EU
partners, pardon me, because we see lots of opportunity for
benefit for them and for us as well.
Senator Capito. Are you seeing any of those nations in
particular that are developing the transportation
infrastructure to receive the product?
Mr. Elkind. Yes, it is happening. In the case of Ukraine
the development of so-called reverse flow capacities so the
pipelines can run in a west to east or north to south, in the
case of Poland. That is happening step by step.
We watch some of the further interconnection developments
that need to happen in that more recent, the countries that
more recently exceeded to European Union, in Central Europe and
Eastern Europe. There's lots of unfinished business there, but
there's also very keen awareness that that's an area where they
need to step up the pace. And this is something that we're
engaged continuously on with the European Commission and with
the member states in the Eastern part of the European Union as
Senator Capito. Well, I would encourage that and think it
could be beneficial, obviously mutually beneficial,
particularly for the area where I live.
The last question I was going to ask you was is in
reference to a letter. You mentioned the Western Hemisphere in
your opening statements. I joined Chairman Murkowski on a
letter with others urging that our neighbor to the South is
treated in the same way as our neighbor to the North, Canada,
with respect to crude exports. What is the status of that and
what response do you have to the letter?
Mr. Elkind. Senator, thank you for that. The--this
question, as I mentioned before, is one that is obviously very,
very important. We are aware of the interest on the part of
Mexico, specifically PEMEX, to engage in a swap arrangement. It
is my understanding that that particular application or
question has been posed properly to the Department of Commerce
as they have the jurisdiction for responding to that.
Again, as we watch this dramatic change that is happening
in U.S. production it, nonetheless, remains the case that we're
a major importer. That doesn't mean that that's the only part
of the story, but that is just a simple arithmetic fact that
remains a part of the background today.
Senator Capito. Alright, thank you.
Mr. Elkind. Thank you.
The Chairman. Senator Manchin.
Senator Manchin. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and thanks,
both of you, for your appearance today and I will follow up on
my colleague from West Virginia.
As you know we have a very proud state, and we are abundant
in energy. We have been a big energy producer for the country,
net exporter of energy.
She had asked the questions concerning natural gas that we
have been blessed, and we think there are more formations that
we are finding even as we speak.
With that being said, I am going to turn to the coal issue
because it is a very critical issue for us and our economy and
our state. Mr. Elkind, can you please explain to me, from your
standpoint, sir, and your role that we are working on now, your
Coal is going to be a dominant or a significant factor of
energy production in the world. If you all would agree to that
or you do agree that the rest of the world is using more now
than they have ever used in the history of the world. With that
being said, also, if you could touch on the number of coal-
fired plants being built around the world, our ability to
export coal since we are not using as much as we used to use in
this country, but other countries that have demand for it, part
of our economic engine.
Next sir, your position on where we stand with China, the
environmental deal that the President struck with China. For
the life of me I cannot understand why you went to
CO2 emissions by 2030 but did not address any
particulates and SOX and NOX. And
SOX and NOX is what is killing the people
in China today. It is not CO2 even though we have to
get both under control, why you all would not have taken the
step that we have already taken with phase one of the Clean Air
Act? So if you could maybe give me your background or
explanation on that? First is coal in the world. How you all
look at that.
Mr. Elkind. Thank you, Senator. Your question exactly takes
us to one of the core elements of how we approach our
engagements on energy issues with international partners, and
that is squarely in the spirit of all of the above.
We are looking at the full range of energy sources. We are
also looking at the demand side as well. I can come back to
that at a later time. I say that because I completely agree
with the point that you make which is that coal is a big part
of our current fuel mix, globally and in the United States
today, and we anticipate that that is going to be so moving
forward. The question, though, within that is then how do we
engage? With whom do we engage in order to make sure that we
end up with coal being used in a way that is environmentally
Senator Manchin. Right.
Mr. Elkind. And that's a huge element of our engagements.
You mentioned China. It's not only with China, but there's a
big piece of----
Senator Manchin. Well India is going to build more coal-
fired plants than China in the next five years.
Mr. Elkind. Right. Right. So one of the things that we do
is we lead on the, as DOE, in the Carbon Sequestration
Leadership Forum which is a small grouping of countries that
intend to keep using coal and how, in a more and more and more
economically beneficial way, do you reduce costs in order to--
Senator Manchin. Well how about with China?
Mr. Elkind. Yeah.
Senator Manchin. Why did you all not go on particulates?
Same as what we have done with SOX, sulfur? We have
clean taken SOX out of the atmosphere----
Mr. Elkind. Right.
Senator Manchin. In America, but we never even would have
addressed it with China.
Mr. Elkind. Senator, respectfully I would disagree that
Senator Manchin. Okay.
Mr. Elkind. Our conversations with our Chinese counterparts
are exactly responsive to the concern that they have, the
concern that they properly have, about air quality that is
killing people in their country.
So we are working with them on advanced coal technologies.
I'll give you one particular example where your state and
institutions in your state play a critical role and that is the
U.S./China Clean Energy Research Center. Under that research
center advanced coal technologies are one of the three areas
that we are focusing on. That effort which is a virtual center,
kind of, an effort involves joint research teams involving the
U.S. and China, public sector and private sector.
Senator Manchin. Sir, we are going to run out of time, if I
can just interrupt you real quick.
Mr. Elkind. Please.
Senator Manchin. Do you see any other country in the world
that is depending on coal moving away from coal as quickly as
we are in this nation or following our lead? When there are
1,200 new coal-fired plants being planned to be built in the
world, none of them in America. I do not think they are taking
our lead. We believe that they are going to follow our lead or
we are going to hold them hostage to our trading policies? I do
not see any of that happening.
Mr. Elkind. Senator, what we do see absolutely is an
interest, a strong interest, to collaborate with the United
States and with the Department of Energy, in particular, in
exactly the way that West Virginia University is leading with
our Chinese counterparts for how do you reduce emissions.
Senator Manchin. Right.
Mr. Elkind. Reduce costs. And so I do see a very strong
interest. It comes, of course, with the proviso that countries
like China, the world's largest coal consumer, they see
themselves continuing to use coal.
Senator Manchin. I am so sorry, Madam Chairman.
With all that being said we all agree that coal is going to
be used in the world for some time, that we all need to use it
better and cleaner with technology, but we are not investing in
It is almost like we are in denial in the United States of
America thinking that we can basically not address the use of
it by finding new technology sources to do it or basically
creating a whole another. It would be a whole other industry
for the state of West Virginia, who has been decimated by the
policies of this Administration, if we could try to find the
cure for the environment for the whole world that is using this
product. But we are not getting any help from the Department of
Energy investing in that technology because there are no takers
stepping up to the plate because there is no certainty in the
rules and policies that we have. They will not step forward.
We'll get with you later on that, sir. I would like to take
this conversation further with you.
Mr. Elkind. Senator, I'd welcome the opportunity to do
Senator Manchin. Thank you.
Mr. Elkind. And to talk both about the things that we're
doing domestically with----
Senator Manchin. Absolutely.
Mr. Elkind. The Loan Guarantee Program and the
Senator Manchin. Yeah, thank you.
Mr. Elkind. In demonstration plants and also what, in my
particular portfolio, what we're doing----
Senator Manchin. We will set up a meeting with you if you
can come and we will sit down. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Elkind. Thank you, sir.
The Chairman. Senator Risch.
Senator Risch. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Mr. Elkind, and this is a comment as opposed to a question
but sitting here I am somewhat amused at your statements about
how wonderful fracking is and the explosion that it has caused
in the production of natural gas in America, and that somehow
the Government was a partner and a cooperator in this.
I know you give a lot of speeches internationally. I would
hope you would instead stress about the Government's role in
this, what a great system the free market entrepreneurial
system is with its innovation and its entrepreneurialship
because this was all done by the free market. It certainly was
not done by the Government. I would say it was done in spite of
the United States Government as opposed to with its help. So,
in any event, my comment.
Dr. Regalbuto, I want to talk to you about the integrated
waste treatment unit at INL. You and I have had lots of
conversations about the cleanup contract, and the cleanup
contract, by and large, has worked quite well over the years.
Every governor since the time it was signed has stood shoulder
to shoulder to keep the contract intact and enforced, and the
Department of Energy, overall, has been compliant, for which we
are very appreciative. As you know, we are really struggling, I
guess everybody is struggling, with the IWTU. How many hundred
million do we have in it now? I do not know how many hundred
million has been spent on that trying to get it to work and it
is still not working.
I would like to get your thoughts on that. I know there are
a lot of heroes right now saying, ``oh, I told you it wouldn't
work,'' which is easy to say after the fact. At some point in
time we are probably going to have to do something different,
but tell me where you are on it and what your thoughts are on
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you for your question, Senator. It is
definitely a challenge that the integrated waste treatment
facility in Idaho has had its share of technical setbacks. And
just to give you a little of background on that is that
unfortunately that facility was declared to be a CD4
prematurely as we have had some conversations in the past. And
that has caused delays which certainly we were not forecasting.
What we are currently doing in IWTU is we stood up an
operation support team that is actually looking specifically at
how to bring the facility into operation safely. We are very
lucky that the Idaho National Laboratory is providing extensive
support to this facility and that the activities initiated
there pretty much at the beginning of the year, and we have
done significant progress since the Idaho team from the--team
to join us which we're very grateful to Director Grossenbacher
for, you know, being able to support us in this effort.
Where we currently are is we did a simulant run. A simulant
run is necessary for us to address all the operational
activities that are going to help when we place waste in there.
And after the simulant run which we finished about December of
last year, we have gone through a period of outage. We have
done some modifications to the facilities in order to assure
that the safety envelope is met, and we plan to button up the
facility and initiate another set of simulant run in order to
test all the modifications that were done. After that simulant
run we will be in a better position to determine when we'll be
initiating waste cleanup.
It is a priority personally for me and for the Department,
and I do look forward to having more conversations with you.
And we will keep you updated in any developments.
Senator Risch. I appreciate that, and I also understand how
difficult this is. This is not like going in with the broom and
cleaning something up. It is highly technical.
John Grossenbacher and his team at the Idaho National
Laboratories is as good as they get. If they cannot make it
work, nobody can make it work.
So I guess I was looking for some comment from you about
how long are we going to keep trying because this has been
going on for lots and lots of money and lots and lots of time.
At some point in time I guess we are going to probably have to
shift to something else.
Are you still fully committed to it, to make it work at the
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you for your question, Senator. As
mentioned, we will do another simulant run, and then we will do
an evaluation of how far did we push this facility or do we
consider alternatives. So at this point in time until we
conclude that next simulant run, we will be in a better
position to inform you on a path forward. And if confirmed, I
look forward to having those discussions with you and your
Senator Risch. Fair enough, I appreciate that.
Of course, you and I have talked at length about the
difficulties at WIPP and the problems it is going to cause in
meeting a 2018 deadline. I just want to underscore how
important that is to us that we do everything we can to meet
that deadline or else there are going to be issues. We already
have people in the state chewing on us about that. We are not
there yet, but we have got to keep our eye on that. Thank you
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The Chairman. Senator Heinrich.
Senator Heinrich. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Speaking of WIPP, Dr. Regalbuto, I want to start by saying
thank you for your visit to WIPP last week. The workers and the
community very much appreciated your being there again, and I
would like to invite you to visit Los Alamos once you are
I know that reopening WIPP continues to be a very high
priority for you, and I fully support that effort. I wanted to
ask you how you describe the current status of that recovery
effort, and specifically, what is your best estimate for when
initial waste emplacements will resume and for the return of
WIPP to normal operations?
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you, Senator. I really appreciated the
opportunity to visit Los Alamos. I have been in the laboratory
side, but I haven't been in the waste emplacement facility, so
I certainly look forward to that, if confirmed.
Regarding the WIPP facility, as you're aware the Accident
Investigation Board presented the last and the final of its
reports. It is certainly a very comprehensive investigation. We
are in the process of addressing all the recommendations.
The target for waste emplacement is the first quarter of
next year, but please do understand that we will not do
emplacement operations until the facility can be run safely. As
we keep on addressing the Accident Investigation Board
recommendations, we will have a better estimate of what that
date will be.
I personally will be there next week, and we are, you know,
we have again, another similar type of format as we employ at
Idaho where we have an operations support team. We have about
eight different areas we're looking at, and we're taking a look
at exactly how we're going to prevent this incident from
happening again, looking at all the recommendations and what it
takes to implement it. So far we have done great progress. As
you're aware we had a temporary closing of the panels which is
a major milestone for us and for the community.
We're also working in the combustible loading. A
significant amount of work has been done in the underground and
every time we go it's a better place, and that is certainly the
direction we want to be.
We are looking into now the certification and the
characterization of the material that comes to the facility. As
we certainly know that is one of the issues that was addressed
by the Accident Investigation Board.
So a lot of progress has been made, but more work remains
to be done. And similar to any other facility in the complex,
when we initiate emplacement operations, we will start with
bringing in non-radioactive drums. We will practice and
continue to do that, and when we're convinced that is done
safely then we will switch to the waste itself. So emplacement
will start with what we call the dummy drum.
Senator Heinrich. Right.
Dr. Regalbuto. Right.
Senator Heinrich. So if you meet that target of first
quarter of next year for initial emplacement of dummy drums and
start working your way back towards normal operations, do you
have a sense for if things go smoothly when normal operations
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you for your question, Senator. We
will have a better idea of when what you call full or normal
operations are going back once we get a little bit farther on
the permanent ventilation. As you're aware we are competing for
air in the facility.
Senator Heinrich. Right.
Dr. Regalbuto. And we're not working at the permanent needs
to full operations where we're about one-third, one-fourth. I'm
sorry, one-third, 40 percent or so. We're bringing interim
ventilation, a temporary ventilation. But we will need the
That project is currently looking at alternatives, and we
will be getting to CD1 relatively quickly, once those
alternatives are submitted and being that we do due diligence.
And that once that is done we will have a better idea of when
is the schedule going to be.
Senator Heinrich. Okay. Well, backing up again to the
cleanup effort at Los Alamos Lab. You are aware of my concerns
about the upcoming transition in program management. As you
develop an acquisition plan for the new contractors, how are
you going to assure that local, small businesses continue to
have an opportunity to play an active role in that cleanup
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you for your question, Senator. As you
are aware the Department champions the small business efforts
and EM actually leads the Department in this effort, not just
from subcontractors, but from prime contractors. And that is
one area that the Secretary assuredly emphasizes.
As we move into transition in the contracts that is
certainly one of our top priorities, not only at Los Alamos,
but at all different sites of the Department. And the Secretary
has asked us to, you know, take a very hard look at how do we
continue to have the same provisions or similar provisions than
the old contract used to have.
Senator Heinrich. Well, I look forward to seeing that. And
hopefully if you could get back to us in writing about how that
will look once those decisions are made, I would very much
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The Chairman. Senator King.
Senator King. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Before beginning my questions I have to differ with my good
friend, the Senator from Idaho. The historic record is
absolutely clear that loan guarantees, research and support
from the Department of Energy in the 60s and 70s was essential
to the development of the hydro fracking technology.
George Mitchell, the father of that technology, has
acknowledged that, and the literature, I think, is very clear.
To argue that somehow the Federal Government impeded this
technology, when in fact, it facilitated it, is just not
accurate in terms of the historic record.
Ms. Regalbuto, a couple of questions. If you all have
noticed we only have five minutes, so I would like very
specific answers. I know this is not specifically your area,
but is there any hope of a high level, nuclear waste facility
for commercial waste from around the country? Is there anything
on the horizon, just very briefly?
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you for your question, Senator. The
high level waste disposal facility is not under my purview
under the Office of Environmental Management. It's actually
under the purview of the Office of----
Senator King. I understand that. You have been in this
field for 20 years. I want to know if you see anything on the
horizon. Yes or no?
Dr. Regalbuto. The Administration has a path forward to
continue to look into this area.
Senator King. Where is the government high level waste
Dr. Regalbuto. Depending on which high level waste it is
the commercial high level waste is stored at the utilities and
Senator King. No, I understand that. I am talking about the
Dr. Regalbuto. That----
Senator King. The waste you are taking out of Hanford,
where does that go?
Dr. Regalbuto. That is stored at the sites pending
Senator King. So is all the government waste being taken to
one site or do you have specific sites around the country?
Dr. Regalbuto. No, there are specific sites around the
country and they're in different forms. Some of our waste is
vitrified. Some of our waste, unfortunately, has not been
treated, such as Hanford.
Senator King. Well, I know it is not within your purview,
but I think it is one of the great failures of the Federal
Government for 60 years that we have not found a way to deal
with this. We have high level nuclear waste in Wisconsin Bay
and it should not be there, because the Government has failed
to meet its commitments with regard to a disposal site.
Mr. Elkind, another very straightforward question. Would it
be in the public interest if exports of natural gas
substantially raised domestic prices?
Mr. Elkind. Thank you, Senator, for that question. The
price impacts are exactly part of the examination of the public
interests that is undertaken by our colleagues in the Office of
Fossil Energy. It is one of the factors that are laid out,
specifically, in a public document that has been notified
through the Federal Register.
So, other things being equal impacts in the form of higher
prices would not be desirable. But I cannot give you a crisp
answer because, in the hypothetical, that does not allow a
consideration of the other potential impacts in a given case.
Senator King. Approximately 600 million people in Africa
have no electricity. Electricity access in places like Africa
or remote villages in the Arctic or wherever they are is a very
serious problem. Do you see distributed energy, that is energy
produced on the site, as a possible answer to this problem
because it skips over the infrastructure requirements of
massive transmission lines, similar to what has happened with
Mr. Elkind. Thank you, Senator. Yes, absolutely,
distributed generation has a very important role to play in the
In the case of our engagements with Africa, Secretary
Moniz, you may be aware, about this time last year chaired in
Addis Ababa, a U.S./Africa Energy Ministers Meeting that was
co-hosted, that was hosted, excuse me, by his Ethiopian
counterpart that involved about 25 energy ministers from
across, mostly Sub-Saharan Africa.
We were focused in that conversation on distributed
generation as a part of the mix. We are making available to the
Power Africa Initiative, a Presidential initiative, led out of
the U.S. Agency for International Development, capabilities
that are being, whose time is being paid for, if you will, by
our colleagues from AID. But some of the technical capacities
that exist in the DOE labs, in order to push this ball forward,
with those countries across the African continent that are
wanting to focus on DG applications.
Senator King. Thank you. I think it is very important.
I am engaged on the Intelligence and Armed Services
Committee and the fight against radical jihadists. Poverty is a
feeder for that problem. To the extent we can support and just
by technology transfer, not necessarily direct aid, additional
electrification which raises standards of living in wherever it
occurs, that is also a national security concern.
I am out of time, but I commend you for that work. I hope
that that will be a significant focus of your work going
forward in International Energy Affairs. Thank you both for
Mr. Elkind. Thank you, Senator.
The Chairman. Thank you.
I do not have any further questions, but I know that
Senator Cantwell has one.
I did want to comment very briefly on a statement that you
made, Mr. Elkind, about oil exports and the fact that we
continue to import quantities of oil. It is an argument that I
think is disingenuous at best. I have suggested so to the
Secretary that we need to remember that we are the only
advanced country member of the OECD that bans oil exports.
Countries like Australia, Canada, Britain, they import.
They export oil. You, in fact, noted that, the report, the
White Paper that we released last week which goes into great
detail about the number of countries that export oil who do not
even produce oil or who produce very limited quantities of oil.
So again, it is something I recognize that the statement
is, in fact, very true that we are continuing to import. We
also know that much of that has to do with how our refineries
are situated, and it is something that is not just a math
situation where until the day that we stop importing oil, that
is when we can stop--start talking about our ability to export.
We are the only country, again, the only country, that bans an
export on oil as an oil producer. It is a ban of one, as the
report has noted. I just wanted to put that on the record.
With that, I will turn to Senator Cantwell for her final
questions. We have got a vote coming up in just a couple
minutes, so this was pretty good timing this morning.
Senator Cantwell. It is good. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Elkind, I wanted to touch base with you. Obviously the
members of the Northwest Delegation care greatly about the
Columbia River Treaty and making sure that gets executed. Can
you tell me what you think the Department of Energy can do,
specifically, to make sure that negotiations and the
stakeholders' representation are done so that we secure a
position from the Administration and move forward on the
Mr. Elkind. Yes, thank you, Senator, for the question. I do
very much understand the importance of this to your
constituents and to others in the Northwest. And as you, of
course, will know Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers serve as the so called U.S. entity for
purposes of the treaty. And they've been working over the last
couple of years to pull together a regional recommendation for
how the treaty could look going forward.
My team has been engaged in that conversation with regional
stakeholders along with BPA and the Army Corps. We've done so
because we understand the importance of moving this issue
forward. We will continue to stay engaged in that fashion, and
in view of the very clear sense of urgency we will do
everything that we can to help facilitate forward motion.
We understand that there are internal deliberations that
are gaining momentum with our interagency partners. I realize
that is not the answer that you are seeking, but I can tell you
that if I am confirmed this is an issue that will have my clear
focus because I understand the importance of its being moved
off of dead center. Thank you.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you. I think your leadership
position in the Department of Energy is instrumental in
ensuring that all the interests across various Government
agencies are formulated in a final position, which is critical
in the timing of the negotiations. So we will look forward to
your leadership on that.
Dr. Regalbuto, I wanted to go back to the 324 site for a
second, and I have a couple of questions.
On this issue of the cesium and strontium, the contaminants
that we do not know how to deal with, when should we get a
timeline on how to deal with those contaminants because we have
had an open-ended time frame here where we try to figure out
how to treat them. At what point should we look for other plans
if we do not know how to treat them?
Dr. Regalbuto. Thank you for your question, Senator. I
personally will have to look a little bit more into the
specifics of which is exactly the contaminants that they're the
main concern is. If confirmed I look forward to coming back and
briefing you on this area. At this point I don't have the
details of which are the specific contaminants that are in
question, but I look forward to catching up and coming back to
Senator Cantwell. In your earlier remarks, you stated it
was clear we did not have some treatment capabilities or they
were not seeming to work. So I am looking for certainty on this
situation that has existed for some while. We have had this
issue where we have, for some time, said we do not know how to
treat it. What I really want to understand is what is the plan
for identifying treatment methods? If we come to a point after
a year or two that we still do not have any treatment responses
for those chemicals what are our alternative plans?
I think we have gone for a long time with a certain level
of uncertainty, and I think from your testimony and the answer
to the previous question you believe that we will be able to
contain and remediate this plume. But I think people want to
know, from a scientific perspective, if we cannot over the next
few years come up with a treatment process for these
contaminants, what are the alternatives? If you could, for the
record give us answers on that, that would be great.
Dr. Regalbuto. Yes, thank you, Senator. It really is an
issue of efficiency of the process versus cost. You know, we do
have the ability of remove chemicals, pretty much, from every
surface. The question is what is the cost and what is the
efficiency of that process? And what one seeks to look at in an
industrial process such as this one is we need to balance the
cost with the efficiency of the process.
So certain activities one can do, for example, in the
pharmaceutical industry where it's only a small batch, one
kilogram or two kilograms per year is certainly not an
efficient process to remove contaminants from soil. So that is
really where we are in the process. But I'd be happy to, you
know, get back to you on this issue.
Senator Cantwell. I appreciate that analysis and understand
the cost considerations. I think to some of my colleagues'
comments, they are always surprised how much it costs to clean
Dr. Regalbuto. Yes.
Senator Cantwell. It is the largest cleanup site in the
entire world, and its complexity dwarfs anything we have ever
done at any other Federal site. We need to continue to look to
the science to solve these problems. There are no shortcuts.
But on this point, I think without a plan to cleanup that
material I think we keep, I don't know if we are waiting, as
you say, so the efficiency issue is counterbalanced by the
issue that I am very concerned about groundwater contamination
and the plume continuing to reach closer to a water source or
What I would be more comfortable with is some sort of
analysis by you and DOE. At what point do you just say, ``we do
not know how to cost effectively treat these contaminants.'' We
are not going to have the answer in the next three years or
five years and the alternative cleanup process would look like
this. If you could give us something for the record on that,
that would be great.
If I could just ask you about the waste treatment plant and
its use of energy: are you still considering liquid natural gas
as a fuel source for the operation of the waste treatment
Dr. Regalbuto. Yes.
Senator Cantwell. Okay, is that going through an EIS, and
if so, when would that be done?
Dr. Regalbuto. It was going through an EIS but there was a
slow down because of the need to align the activities that we
want to do with the central plateau in support of WTP. So yes,
we will continue to look at replacing the diesel with natural
gas. We recognize the benefits to the environment and the
sustainability to the site.
But the EIS has slowed down until we can better align the
two processes. Once that is aligned we will continue the EIS
and look forward to working with the Committee.
Senator Cantwell. Was that this year, 2015?
Dr. Regalbuto. I need to check when this projects are
aligned but it is our, you know, intention to continue to do
this. And we will definitely switch to natural gas.
Senator Cantwell. Okay, thank you, and we will look forward
to that. Thank you very much.
The Chairman. Senator King, did you have any final
Senator King. No, Madam Chair.
The Chairman. Thank you.
I want to thank both of you, not only for your time here
this morning before the Committee, but for your willingness to
serve in the acting capacity during this time. I know that is
not an easy position to be in, but we appreciate what you have
offered us in terms of the questions and we will look forward
to your responses if members have further follow up. I know
that there were some specific requests made to each of you, and
we would hope that those would be given due and prompt
consideration so that we can, as a Committee, do our jobs here.
We appreciate you for the jobs that you do.
And with that the Committee stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11.30 a.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
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