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                                                   Calendar No. 187

116th Congress}                                          { Report
 1st Session  }                                          { 116-98



               September 10, 2019.--Ordered to be printed


  Ms. Murkowski, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 347]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the bill (H.R. 347) to extend the authorization of the 
Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 relating to 
the disposal site in Mesa County, Colorado, having considered 
the same, reports favorably thereon without amendment and 
recommends that the bill do pass.


    The purpose of H.R. 347 is to extend the authorization of 
the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 (Public 
Law 95-604) relating to the disposal site in Mesa County, 

                          Background and Need

    Grand Junction, Colorado, is home to a former uranium 
processing site known as the Climax uranium mill that closed in 
1970. The mill operated for 19 years and produced 2.2 million 
tons of radioactive tailings, the material that remained after 
most of the uranium metal had been extracted from uranium ore. 
From 1950 to 1966, mill tailings were available to private 
citizens to use as construction materials and more than 4,000 
private and commercial properties in the Grand Junction area 
utilized the radioactive tailings (these buildings are referred 
to as vicinity properties). In 1966, the Colorado Department of 
Health sampled the tailings from the site uncovering elevated 
levels of radon-222.
    In 1978, Congress found that uranium mill tailings located 
at uranium mill sites may pose a potential and significant 
hazard to the public. Congress enacted the Uranium Mill 
Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978 to address the hazard. 
Title I of the Act authorized the Secretary of Energy 
(Secretary) to remediate the tailings and other residual 
radioactive material at 22 designated inactive uranium mill 
sites and their associated vicinity properties. Remediation of 
these sites resulted in the construction of 19 disposal cells 
that are used to stabilize and contain the mill tailings and 
associated material.
    The 94-acre Cheney disposal cell (now the Grand Junction 
disposal site) is one of the 19 disposal cells built pursuant 
to the 1978 Act. It was constructed in 1990 and was chosen by 
the Department of Energy (DOE) ``because it was remote, lacked 
significant groundwater, and was underlain by a thick, 
impermeable layer of Mancos shale.'' An initial 4.4 million 
cubic yards of contaminated processing site materials, 
including vicinity property materials, was transported to the 
disposal cell by 1994 and that portion of the cell was closed.
    Congress has previously extended the original deadline for 
the Secretary to complete site remediation three times. Section 
112 of the Act, as amended, required the Secretary to complete 
work at most of the mill sites by September 30, 1998. But it 
expressly authorizes the Secretary to continue receiving and 
disposing of residual radioactive material at the Cheney 
disposal site until it is filled to capacity or until September 
30, 2023, whichever comes first.
    The exception was made for the Cheney disposal site because 
over one million cubic yards of tailings had been used as fill 
material in road beds and along utility corridors in and around 
Grand Junction. Under environmental protection standards for 
uranium mill tailings issued by the Environmental Protection 
Agency, these tailings were left in place because they did not 
pose a clear present or future hazard and the environmental 
harm or cost of removing them would have exceeded any public 
health benefits. Congress recognized that these tailings would 
eventually be disturbed during future excavations for road or 
utility repairs, at which time, they could be disposed of in 
the Cheney disposal cell. Consequently, in 1996, Congress 
amended section 112 to provide for their disposal at the site. 
(S. Rept. 104-301).
    DOE testified that uranium mill tailings previously used in 
roads, sidewalks, and even homes continue to be excavated from 
vicinity properties around Grand Junction and require disposal. 
In addition, the Secretary has permanent authority to perform 
groundwater treatment systems under the Act, and those 
operations still generate waste that is eligible for disposal 
at the Cheney disposal site. According to DOE, the site 
receives approximately 2,700 cubic yards of waste per year and 
has sufficient space to receive an estimated additional 235,000 
cubic yards, indicating the site could operate for 87 more 
years at current rates. DOE recommended reauthorizing the site 
to make use of this valuable and necessary disposal capacity.

                          Legislative History

    H.R. 347 was introduced by Representatives Scott Tipton (R-
CO) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) in the House of Representatives on 
January 8, 2019. H.R. 347 passed the House of Representatives 
by voice vote on March 5, 2019.
    In the 115th Congress, Senator Gardner introduced similar 
legislation, S. 1059, on May 4, 2017. The Subcommittee on 
Energy held a hearing on the bill on October 13, 2017. The 
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met in open business 
session on March 8, 2018, and ordered S. 1059 favorably 
reported without amendment. S. Rept. 115-247. An identical 
bill, H.R. 2278, was introduced by Representative Tipton in the 
House of Representatives on May 1, 2017, and was reported by 
the Energy and Commerce Committee on September 7, 2018. H. 
Rept. 115-925. The House passed H.R. 2278 on September 25, 2018 
with an amendment.
    In the 114th Congress, similar legislation, S. 3312, was 
introduced by Senator Gardner on September 12, 2016. A hearing 
was held on the bill on September 22, 2016. Representative 
Tipton introduced similar legislation, H.R. 5950, in the House 
of Representatives on September 7, 2016, which was referred to 
the Energy and Commerce Committee.
    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met in open 
business session on July 16, 2019, and ordered H.R. 347 
favorably reported without amendment.

                        Committee Recommendation

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in open 
business session on July 16, 2019, by a majority voice vote of 
a quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass H.R. 347.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis

Section 1. Short title

    Section 1 sets forth the short title of the bill.

Sec. 2. Authorization

    Section 2 reauthorizes the disposal site in Mesa County, 
Colorado, through September 30, 2031.

                   Cost and Budgetary Considerations

    The following estimate of the costs of this measure has 
been provided by the Congressional Budget Office:


    H.R. 347 would amend the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation 
Control Act of 1978 to extend, through September 30, 2031, the 
government's authority to operate the Cheney disposal cell in 
Mesa County, Colorado. That facility, administered by the 
Department of Energy (DOE), serves as a repository for mill 
tailings--radioactive waste generated during the conversion of 
uranium into fuel for nuclear reactors. Under current law, 
DOE's authority to accept additional materials at that site is 
scheduled to expire on September 30, 2023.
    Using information from DOE, CBO estimates that the costs 
associated with receiving and disposing of additional materials 
at the Cheney facility average less than $500,000 annually; 
such spending is subject to appropriation. Because DOE already 
is authorized to accept materials through fiscal year 2023, CBO 
estimates that enacting H.R. 347 would have no effect on the 
department's costs until 2024. The cost of implementing the 
bill in 2024 would not be significant, CBO estimates.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Kathleen Gramp. 
The estimate was reviewed by Theresa A. Gullo, Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                      Regulatory Impact Evaluation

    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out H.R. 347. The Act is not a regulatory measure in 
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or 
significant economic responsibilities on private individuals 
and businesses.
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of H.R. 347, as ordered reported.

                   Congressionally Directed Spending

    H.R. 347, as ordered reported, does not contain any 
congressionally directed spending items, limited tax benefits, 
or limited tariff benefits as defined in rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate.

                        Executive Communications

    The testimony provided by the Department of Energy at the 
October 3, 2017, hearing on S. 1059, similar legislation, 

Testimony of Deputy General Counsel Bernard McNamee, 
            U.S. Department of Energy

    Chairman Gardner, Ranking Member Manchin, and Members of 
the Subcommittee, it is a privilege and an honor to serve at 
the Department of Energy, an agency tasked with, among other 
important responsibilities: assuring our nuclear readiness, 
overseeing the Nation's energy supply, carrying out the 
environmental clean-up from the nuclear mission, and managing 
the Department's 17 National Laboratories. Thank you for the 
opportunity to testify today on behalf of the Department of 
Energy (DOE) regarding legacy waste cleanup responsibilities, 
expanding the U.S.'s ethane storage infrastructure, 
commercializing DOE National Lab developed technologies, and 
accelerating the maturation of advanced nuclear energy.
    In support of the Administration's goals of establishing 
energy dominance and economic competitiveness, resources within 
DOE's energy and science programs are focused on research and 
development (R&D) across a variety of technologies that support 
American energy independence and domestic job-growth. Through 
careful prioritization and ensuring funding goes to the most 
promising research, DOE, through its National Laboratories, 
will continue to support the world's best enterprise of 
scientists and engineers who create innovations to drive 
American prosperity, security and competitiveness for the next 
generation. I have been asked to testify on multiple bills 
today, which the Administration continues to review.
    The Department appreciates the ongoing bipartisan efforts 
to address our Nation's energy challenges, and looks forward to 
working with the Committee on the legislation on today's agenda 
and any future legislation.
    S. 1059, Responsible Disposal Reauthorization Act of 2017 
Legacy waste cleanup is a top priority for the Department of 
Energy. The Grand Junction, Colorado disposal site was 
authorized by Congress as part of the Uranium Mill Tailings 
Radiation Control Act of 1978.
    The disposal site is the only active site available for 
receiving uranium mill tailings managed by DOE's Office of 
Legacy Management (LM). The Department works closely with 
local, state, and federal officials to ensure the protection of 
public health, safety, and the environment by moving 
contaminated materials away from public places.
    The Grand Junction Disposal Site contains about 4.5 million 
cubic yards of low-level radioactive waste and receives 
approximately 2,700 cubic yards of waste per year. The disposal 
site has sufficient space to receive an additional estimated 
235,000 cubic yards indicating the site could operate for 87 
more years at current rates.
    New waste materials come from numerous locations--primarily 
the City of Grand Junction continues to excavate waste tailings 
previously used in roads, sidewalks, and homes. DOE-LM operates 
groundwater treatment systems at several sites that will 
continue to generate waste eligible for disposal in the Grand 
Junction Disposal Site, and that valuable capacity should 
continue to be utilized.
    The Department of Energy looks forward to continuing to 
work with this subcommittee on responsible disposal management 
of the Nation's legacy sites.

                        Changes in Existing Law

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the changes in existing law made 
by the original Act, as reported, are shown as follows 
(existing law proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black 
brackets, new matter is printed in italic, existing law in 
which no change is proposed is shown in roman):


Public Law 95-604, as Amended

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

                       TERMINATION; AUTHORIZATION

    Sec. 112. (a)(1) The authority of the Secretary to perform 
remedial action under this subchapter shall terminate on 
September 30, 1998, except that--
          (A) the authority of the Secretary to perform 
        groundwater restoration activities under this 
        subchapter is without limitation, and
          (B) the Secretary may continue operation of the 
        disposal site in Mesa County, Colorado (known as the 
        Cheney disposal cell) for receiving and disposing of 
        residual radioactive material from processing sites and 
        of byproduct material from property in the vicinity of 
        the uranium milling site located in Monticello, Utah, 
        until the Cheney disposal cell has been filled to the 
        capacity for which it was designed, or [September 30, 
        2023] September 30, 2031, whichever comes first.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *