Text: S.Hrg. 113-100 — CONNOR, ROBINSON, AND BINZ NOMINATIONS
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[Senate Hearing 113-100]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
S. Hrg. 113-100
CONNOR, ROBINSON, AND BINZ NOMINATIONS
ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED THIRTEENTH CONGRESS
THE NOMINATIONS OF MR. MICHAEL L. CONNOR TO BE DEPUTY SECRETARY OF
INTERIOR, MS. ELIZABETH M. ROBINSON TO BE UNDER SECRETARY OF ENERGY,
AND MR. RONALD J. BINZ TO BE A COMMISSIONER OF THE FEDERAL ENERGY
SEPTEMBER 17, 2013
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COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
RON WYDEN, Oregon, Chairman
TIM JOHNSON, South Dakota LISA MURKOWSKI, Alaska
MARY L. LANDRIEU, Louisiana JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming
MARIA CANTWELL, Washington JAMES E. RISCH, Idaho
BERNARD SANDERS, Vermont MIKE LEE, Utah
DEBBIE STABENOW, Michigan DEAN HELLER, Nevada
MARK UDALL, Colorado JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
AL FRANKEN, Minnesota TIM SCOTT, South Carolina
JOE MANCHIN, III, West Virginia LAMAR ALEXANDER, Tennessee
BRIAN SCHATZ, Hawaii ROB PORTMAN, Ohio
MARTIN HEINRICH, New Mexico JOHN HOEVEN, North Dakota
TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
Joshua Sheinkman, Staff Director
Sam E. Fowler, Chief Counsel
Karen K. Billups, Republican Staff Director
Patrick J. McCormick III, Republican Chief Counsel
C O N T E N T S
9Bennet, Hon. Michael, U.S. Senator from Colorado................ 9
Bingaman, Hon. Jeff, Former U.S. Senator......................... 5
Binz, Ronald J., Nominee to be a Member of the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission.......................................... 18
Connor, Michael L., Nominee to be Deputy Secretary of the
Department of the Interior..................................... 11
Murkowski, Hon. Lisa, U.S. Senator from Alaska................... 3
Robinson, Elizabeth (Beth) M., Nominee to be Under Secretary for
Management and Performance, Department of Energy............... 16
Udall, Hon. Mark, U.S. Senator From Colorado..................... 7
Udall, Hon. Tom, U.S. Senator From New Mexico.................... 6
Wyden, Hon. Ron, U.S. Senator From Oregon........................ 1
Responses to additional questions................................ 57
CONNOR, ROBINSON, AND BINZ NOMINATIONS
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:40 a.m. in room
SD-366, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Ron Wyden,
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. RON WYDEN, U.S. SENATOR FROM OREGON
The Chairman. The committee will come to order.
Today's business is, of course, to consider the views of 3
very well-qualified nominees. Also when we have a quorum, we
will do a short business meeting that Senator Murkowski and I
anticipate can be dealt with in a manner of minutes.
With respect to the 3 nominees.
Mike Connor, the President's choice to be Deputy Secretary
of the Interior, is well known to many of us on the committee.
He ably staffed the committee on water issues for 8 years from
2001 to 2009. Before joining our staff, Mike got his start in
the Solicitor's Honors program at the Department of the
After 5 years in the Solicitor's Office, he was appointed
Director of the Secretary of the Interior's Indian Water Rights
Office where he served for 3 more years until Senator Bingaman
hired him away to serve our committee.
For the past 4 years since leaving the committee, Mike has
been Commissioner of Reclamation, a position to which he was
confirmed by the Senate in 2009. The Bureau of Reclamation is
the largest wholesaler of water in the country bringing water
to more than 31 million people in 17 Western States. It is the
second largest producer of hydroelectric power, operating 58
hydroelectric power plants and generating more than 40 billion
kilowatt hours of power per year. Leading the Bureau is an
enormous responsibility and one that Mike has discharged with
great distinction and acclaim.
Both on the staff of the committee and as Commissioner of
Reclamation, Mike has demonstrated his integrity, his
knowledge, his commitment to public service, and his ability to
bring people together and to solve problems.
Our next nominee is Beth Robinson. She's the President's
choice to be the Under Secretary of Energy. She, too, is very
She currently serves as the Chief Financial Officer of the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a position she
was confirmed by the Senate for in 2009. As the Chief Financial
Officer at NASA, Dr. Robinson has managed the budget of major
Federal agencies which like the Department of Energy, is on the
forefront of scientific research and technological development.
Before joining NASA she was the Assistant Director of
Budget at the Office of Management and Budget where she was the
most senior career official.
Before that she was the Deputy Director of the
Congressional Budget Office from 2003 to 2005.
Still earlier in her career she was at the Office of
Technology Assessment where she was a Project Examiner and
That background should serve Dr. Robinson well.
This summer Secretary Moniz reorganized the Department of
Energy to consolidate its support offices with its
environmental cleanup and legacy management functions under the
Under Secretary, who is responsible for project management and
performance across the Department. The Under Secretary for
Management and Performance is being given an enormously
important and challenging portfolio. Dr. Robinson brings a
quarter century of experience with Federal budget and science
and technology issues to the job.
Ron Binz, who the President has chosen to fill Jon
Wellinghoff's seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,
is no stranger to public utility issues. In 2007 to 2011, Mr.
Binz chaired Colorado's Public Utility Commission where he led
the effort to implement Colorado's new energy economy. He has
also been a member of the National Association of Regulatory
Utility Commissioners, the Secretary of Energy State Energy
Advisory Board, the Electric Power Research Institute's
Advisory Council and the Harvard Electricity Policy Group.
Before chairing the Public Utility Commission in Colorado,
he was the consumer counsel there for a decade, served as the
President of a nonprofit organization that promoted competition
in telecommunications and energy, and ran his own policy
consulting firm. Since leaving the Public Utility Commission he
has returned to his public policy consulting practice. Like our
other 2 nominees, he brings enormous experience gained over the
course of a professional lifetime to the position for which he
has been nominated.
In considering the Binz nomination I'll briefly describe
the authorities of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
FERC's primary tasks have been overseeing the orderly
development of the nation's water power resources and
protecting electric rate payers and natural gas consumers from
unjust and unreasonable electric and gas prices.
More recently it has been handed the task of protecting
electric and gas markets from manipulation and ensuring the
reliability of the electric grid.
FERC has no authority to regulate coal. That means no
authority over the leasing of Federal coal fields, the issuance
of coal mining permits or mine safety. That means it has no
authority to regulate or license coal burning electric
generating plants or authorities to tell utilities which fuels
to use to generate electricity.
Most importantly, it has no authority to impose unjust or
unreasonable rates or impose discriminatory or preferential
charges on coal or coal-generated electricity. That means no
back door taxes on coal or coal-generated electricity. Now
having just gotten back from the natural gas fields in the
Bakken with Senator Hoeven, I do want to note that FERC
actually does have the authority to permit interstate natural
gas pipelines and to ensure competitive gas rates.
I'm especially interested in Mr. Binz's views of this
authority because natural gas, with 50 percent less carbon than
other fossil fuels, is giving American consumers and American
businesses a pricing advantage in a tough, global economy. As I
saw in North Dakota, the key to keeping that gas affordable and
accessible is getting it to market. That brings us to the
Pipelines are key to the infrastructure that gets the gas
to market. My hope for future, new pipelines is that America
gets a win/win situation. Not just more pipelines, but better,
new pipelines that save consumers and businesses money as they
save energy and offer an added boost by emitting less methane.
I intend this morning to ask Mr. Binz for his ideas about
potential win/win solutions on natural gas.
So we have 3 nominees who are highly qualified for the
positions they've been nominated for. I know that Senators have
a number of questions that they wish to pursue. We've got a
long bipartisan tradition of making sure that nominees, who are
asked questions and all Senators who ask them, are treated
fairly. We're going to maintain that today.
Now I note we have a quorum. We can do this 1 of 2 ways.
We can have Senator Murkowski make her opening statement,
or we can go right to the short business meeting and then we'll
have Senator Murkowski.
Senator Murkowski. Business meeting.
The Chairman. Alright.
The Chairman. We now turn to the 3 pending nominations. We
will have Senator Murkowski's opening statement and then we're
very pleased to have our colleagues and also Chairman Bingaman,
who returns. It's become almost mandatory for Chairman Bingaman
to introduce a nominee if we have a nominee's hearing. But
we're glad that he's here.
Let us now have Senator Murkowski's opening remarks.
STATEMENT OF HON. LISA MURKOWSKI, U.S. SENATOR
Senator Murkowski. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I, too, would like to welcome our friend and colleague and
distinguished former chairman back to the committee. It's
always good to see you here.
Mr. Connor, I kind of feel like you are still a part of the
committee. You've been a familiar face around here for so many
years. So welcome back to this room as well.
You clearly know the significance of the--that the
Department of the Interior has to Western States. In
particular, you know firsthand the impact that it can have on
our lives, our lands. I'm pleased to say that on the basis of
your prior service, the opportunity that I have had to observe
your work for a period of time, I'm pleased to be able to
support your nomination today.
I'll look forward to the questions that my colleagues will
have of you. But pleased that you have agreed to step forward
in this capacity.
Dr. Robinson, I'd like to welcome you before our committee.
I appreciate the time that you took to meet with my staff last
week so that we could ask some questions. I do look forward to
learning a little bit more about your work as the Chief
Financial Officer there at NASA, as well as hearing your ideas
for improving contracting and environmental management within
Finally to Mr. Binz, welcome also to the committee. I
appreciated meeting with you last week. We had an opportunity
to discuss at that time that there has been a fair amount of
attention, I think it's fair to say, about your nomination. Not
only coming on as a member of the Commission, but as the Chair
of the Commission, so a little extra added scrutiny there and I
think appropriately so.
I would suggest, Mr. Chairman, that most of these people in
the room and that were waiting outside were not here for the
The Chairman. You think?
Senator Murkowski. So I think it speaks to the significance
of the nomination that we have here today to be chairman of the
We recognize that FERC is independent by law and by design.
It is clearly, clearly distinct from executive agencies that
carry out policy directives from the White House. According to
the Organic Act governing FERC commissioners and this is their
quote, ``shall be individuals who by demonstrated ability,
background, training or experience are specifically qualified
to assess fairly the needs and concerns of all interests
affected by Federal energy policy.'' So again, emphasis on the
true independence that the FERC as an entity should have.
Mr. Binz, this committee clearly has a role there for to
ensure FERC's continued independence. It's against this
standard that is provided in the Organic Act that I will
express my concerns about your nomination to the committee.
Specifically I'm concerned about your role, your view of
the role, of regulators and how you would lead the Commission,
if confirmed. You've written and spoken extensively about that
role. At this point I am not convinced that your views are
compatible with FERC's mission.
It is critically, and I will emphasize that, critically
important for us to enable the agency and its professional, non
partisan employees, who report to the chairman as their CEO, to
maintain its strong culture as an expert agency, free of undo
There's a lot at stake with FERC, probably more so than
most people would realize. By one rough measure of economic
impact the energy transmitted over FERC related pipes and wires
is worth well over $400 billion per year. Most Americans
actually feel that impact to FERC's decision in hundreds of
individual cases and controversies. So ultimately what we're
talking about here is money from their pockets and the quality
of their energy service.
I will also raise my concerns about the coordination that
we have seen between FERC professional staff, White House
staff, a public relations firm that by its own admission has
been retained for the benefit of your nomination by an interest
group and lobbyists, at least one of whom I understood you to
say you thought might be being paid by the same interest group
to advance your nomination.
We may not have seen an effort like this before. I think
for good reason.
Again, FERC is an independent agency. It must remain an
So this kind of paid effort for and with the cooperation of
the nominee should not become the new normal.
So I will look forward to hearing your response, Mr. Binz
to the concerns that I have raised. I know others will raise
issues as well. This is an important part of the process for
any nominee to gather information, not only directly from you
in the venue of the committee, but also from the questions that
will be submitted to the record afterwards which I would also
look forward to reviewing as well.
But I thought it only appropriate at this time to be able
to raise my concerns so that we could have more fulsome
conversation throughout the hearing.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I'm ready to go.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Murkowski.
Chairman Bingaman, you have once again been the recipient
of bipartisan bouquet tossing. We are very glad that you're
here. You're going to introduce Mike Connor.
Senator Domenici, who also chaired the committee before
Chairman Bingaman had also wanted to introduce Mike Connor,
he's unable to be here today because of a scheduling conflict.
Senator Domenici submitted a written statement in support of
Mike Connor's nomination.
Without objection it will be included in the record.
The Chairman. In addition, I note our friends and
colleagues, Senator Udall of Colorado and Senator Bennet, have
asked to introduce Mr. Binz. We welcome them.
So let us proceed to Chairman Bingaman to introduce Mike
Connor. Then we'll call on Senator Udall and Senator Bennet to
introduce Mr. Binz.
Tom Udall has just arrived and he is going to make some
introductory remarks of Mike Connor as well.
So, Chairman Bingaman, we'll make your prepared remarks a
part of the record. You just proceed.
STATEMENT OF HON. JEFF BINGAMAN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR
Senator Bingaman. Mr. Chairman and Senator Murkowski, thank
you very much for your kind words. Thank you for allowing me
to, once again, address the committee and all committee
I'm honored to be here with Senator Udall to strongly
support the nomination of Mike Connor for the position of
Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior.
I think as everyone in this committee knows the Deputy
Secretary position in the Department of the Interior is a very
important position. It's a position which Senators,
particularly Senators on this committee, have occasion to
interact with on a pretty regular basis. So it's important that
the President have a good person in that job and that the
Congress have someone in that job that they can relate to.
The President, in my view, could not have chosen a better
nominee for the position than Mike. Mike is eminently
qualified, as pointed out by Chairman Wyden in his remarks and
Senator Murkowski as well.
He graduated from New Mexico State University. Has a degree
there in chemical engineering which Senator Heinrich, I know
has a degree in engineering and as I recall there are not too
many in the Congress that have that qualification. So it's
great that Mike has that training.
Following that he graduated from the University of Colorado
Law School. From 1993 until 2001 he was in the Solicitor's
Office in the Department of the Interior and also the Director
of the Secretary's Indian Water Rights Office.
Beginning in 2001 he did come to work with our own
committee here, the Energy Committee. During his years on the
Energy Committee staff he demonstrated, on numerous occasions,
he was here on the staff for 8 years. He demonstrated on
numerous occasions his ability to find solutions to very
difficult problems and to find solutions that could gain the
support of Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike.
His current position as Commissioner of the Bureau of
Reclamation is a position in which he has also distinguished
himself. He has demonstrated the ability to effectively manage
and lead one of the most important agencies in our government.
Mike knows and understands the laws that the Department of
the Interior is tasked with administering. He also, very much,
for the interest of people from the West, such as myself and
Senator Udall, he understands and knows the water laws that
affect us in this country. He knows the on the ground
challenges that come with managing our public lands.
He knows the crucial role that Congress plays in setting
policy and in overseeing how that policy is carried out. He is
a first rate manager. That's a skill which is essential in a
large department such as the Department of the Interior.
As I indicated at the beginning, in my view, the President
could not have chosen a better nominee for this position. I
hope all Senators will support his nomination and quickly
report that nomination to the Full Senate for consideration.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman for allowing me to speak. I know
Senator Udall also has comments to make.
The Chairman. Senator Udall, welcome.
STATEMENT OF HON. TOM UDALL, U.S. SENATOR
FROM NEW MEXICO
Senator Udall. Thank you, Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member
Murkowski and to the very distinguished Energy Committee here
that does such good work on the Hill.
It's an honor to speak after Senator Bingaman. I think when
Senator Bingaman expresses an opinion about an employee who
worked for him for 8 years, it's very important to take that
into consideration because Mike Connor is somebody who has
incredible integrity. He has the capacity, I think, to work
across the aisle.
You all have seen, many of you that are on this committee,
have seen that when Chairman Bingaman was in place. So it's an
important thing to have somebody like that who understands the
Hill. Who understands how things work in the Congress to be in
these administrative positions.
I would just say that in this job at BOR that Mike Connor
has held, water is an absolutely critical issue to the Nation
and to the West. He is focused like a laser beam on the water
issues. Many of the water issues we have in the West, as some
of the Western Senators know, revolve around disputes, tribal
disputes, State and Federal.
Mike Connor has been someone who has brought to the table
the idea that you can resolve these disputes. You can implement
settlements. I've seen, in our home State of New Mexico,
Senator Bingaman, him do that on a regular basis. We've had
some very, very good tribal settlements. They've mediated some
very tough environmental disputes.
We all know, in terms of water, we're going to have this
overlay of climate. You look at the big basins in the West and
there's going to be less water. Mike is on top of that. He
understands the issue. I think he will work with us to find
common sense solutions.
I couldn't agree more with Senator Bingaman. I complement
Secretary Jewell for her choice. I think he's an ideal person
in order to carry out the duties of Deputy Secretary of the
Interior. I would recommend him most highly.
Thank you. I yield back.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Udall. I very much
appreciate you and Chairman Bingaman being here.
Just apropos of that water point that you were making
Senator Udall. I listened carefully to the excellent speech
that you gave on water conservation during the course of the
Energy Efficiency debate. We very much appreciate your
leadership and highlighting Mike's work on this as well.
STATEMENT OF HON. MARK UDALL, U.S. SENATOR
Senator Mark Udall. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
Good morning, Ranking Member Murkowski.
As you mentioned, Senator Bennet and I are here. We're very
pleased to be able to introduce Ron Binz, who is the
President's nominee to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission, which we fondly call the FERC. Through his
commitment to promoting a fair and competitive business
environment in Colorado, Ron has demonstrated that he's well
qualified to help oversee the regulatory framework of America's
Mr. Chairman, I want to emphasize that Senator Bennet and I
speak from long experience observing Mr. Binz in Colorado. He
was known as a fair and impartial professional during these
years of public service in Colorado. I want to quote Lola
Spradley, who is a prominent Republican and a former Speaker of
our Colorado House of Representatives. She has said, ``Binz is
an experienced, balanced expert with more than 30 years of
experience. During this time he's been able to offer bipartisan
solutions on several issues.''
Lola is one of the many people I've heard from across the
political spectrum who support Ron; from utilities, consumer
organizations, fuel suppliers, former FERC Commissioners and
many other stakeholders. In Colorado, Ron was known as a
consensus builder. He was a pragmatist. He was a go-to person
when difficult problems demanded solutions. Our country needs
more consensus builders like Ron.
He understands the vast array, and that we all know in this
committee, it is a vast array of different stakeholders across
all the many energy debates that we have. But more than that,
he knows how to bring them to the table for constructive
dialog. That's exactly what I saw him do in Colorado.
Let me give you an example.
He headed, Mr. Chairman as you mentioned, the Office of
Consumer Council. He earned this reputation as a problem solver
by bringing a thoughtful and a common sense average guy way of
thinking to many, many tough debates. A specific example, he
helped lead the negotiations on the settlement of several
lawsuits surrounding what was then the troubled Fort St. Vrain
nuclear power plant. That power plant was operational less than
15 percent of its 10 year life span, and it was a major problem
in our State in the late 1980s.
But Ron got into the mix. He worked with the utilities
involved, with stakeholders. They all found a compromise that
resulted in that plant being decommissioned and then resolving
in the process the issue of the rates for the consumers who
were being delivered that power.
Here's the important part. The major stakeholders-the
utilities, the regulators and the consumer advocates-all
approved that final consensus driven deal. That deal led to
$102,000,000 in refunds and electrical rate reductions for
Today that power plant, the Fort St. Vrain power plant, is
again generating power, though now it's powered by natural gas.
It's a very interesting case study.
In addition, Ron understands and he's worked to implement a
balanced energy strategy for the State of Colorado. By that I
mean from natural gas to renewables, to coal. He's been at the
helm of Colorado's pursuit of an economical, sustainable energy
His efforts have helped create jobs and cement--and I guess
I'm a little bit of a homer here-but our leadership in the new
energy economy. I believe and I know he can do the same on a
Many of you have met with Ron already. Those of you who
haven't I can tell you he's willing and ready to sit down with
you at a minutes? notice. You will learn very quickly he's a
good listener. That's a skill that will be critical for an
incoming FERC Commissioner.
Now what a lot of people don't know about Ron is that he's
quite a chef. He makes his own pickles, beer, wine, cheese. You
name it. He even won a blue ribbon at the Colorado State Fair
for his bread and butter pickles.
But I guess I digress.
Senator Mark Udall: Between addressing our transmission
challenges, expanding our natural gas pipeline infrastructure
and working with energy stakeholders to ensure our cyber
security, FERC faces immense challenges over the next 5 years.
I believe Ron Binz is exceptionally qualified to ensure that
our energy infrastructure is up to the challenge of the next
Mr. Chairman, thank you.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Udall. We look forward to
seeing you on this side of the dais here in a couple minutes.
Senator Bennet, welcome.
STATEMENT OF HON. MICHAEL BENNET, U.S. SENATOR
Senator Bennet. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank
you very much for holding this hearing and for the Ranking
Member Senator Murkowski as well. Thank you for your
consideration of these nominees.
I'm very pleased to be here with my senior Senator today,
Senator Udall. He and I spent the weekend together, a lot of
it, traveling our State surveying the damage from the floods.
Even as we meet here today we have first responders who are
rescuing people still in Colorado today.
We're going to need the help of the members of this
committee to rebuild. We look forward to working with you on
I'm here also with Senator Udall to introduce someone who I
know always has Colorado on his mind as well. That's Ron Binz.
I think Senator Udall did a great job of outlining Ron's past
experience and credentials. Simply put, Ron has a long history
of building consensus and finding solutions when presented with
In a recent letter to the Wall Street Journal an impressive
bipartisan group of 12 former FERC Commissioners expressed
their support for Ron. I think on the standard that the ranking
member mentioned earlier actually.
As I read it, they said, ``Mr. Binz has an impressive 34
year career in energy policy. If the Senate confirms him we
think he will be a fair and impartial judge and further the
public interest within the FERC's authority.''
They went on to say. ``Over Republican and Democratic
administrations FERC has judiciously exercised the dual
authority Congress has given it. FERC has a long nonpartisan
tradition. Ron Binz fits squarely within that tradition.''
I'd ask the chair to have the entirety of the letter in the
The Chairman. Without objection, so ordered.
Senator Bennet. Thank you.
Senator Bennet. It isn't just fellow regulators who support
Ron, but it's also leaders of industries that FERC regulates.
For instance the CEO of Excel Energy, our utility in
Colorado, said ``our industry faces many challenges that
require a careful balancing of interests and thoughtful
solutions. Constructive approaches that benefit both customers
and the environment should be applauded rather than chastised.
Regulators such as Mr. Binz can play a key role in crafting
such forward looking approaches and should be encouraged to do
As Senator Udall mentioned Ron has a long career in public
service in Colorado. He has built, he has earned a reputation
as a good listener who can broker difficult compromises among
stakeholders who might not necessarily see eye to eye on a
given issue. Ron's long experience combined with his very
pragmatic temperament make him well suited to serve as the next
Chairman of FERC.
With that, Mr. Chairman I say thank you for having this
hearing. Thanks for letting Senator Udall and I come by.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Bennet.
I don't believe any Senators have questions of these 4. Is
Alright, we'll excuse all 4 of you at this time.
If our nominees will come forward? We have some business
matters to address first.
Welcome to each of you.
The rules of the committee, which apply to all nominees,
require that they be sworn in connection with their testimony.
Please stand and raise your right hand.
Do you solemnly swear the testimony you're about to give is
the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help
[Witnesses respond. I do.]
The Chairman. Before you begin your statement. I will ask 3
questions addressed to each nominee who comes before the
Will you be available to appear before the committee and
other Congressional Committees to represent departmental
positions and respond to issues of concern to the Congress?
[Witnesses respond. I will.]
The Chairman. Are you aware of any personal holdings,
investments or interests that could constitute a conflict of
interest or create the appearance of such a conflict should you
be confirmed and assume the office to which you've been
nominated by the President?
Mr. Binz. I do not, no.
Are you involved or do you have any assets held in a blind
[Witnesses respond. No.]
The Chairman. Alright.
We always allow the nominees to introduce their family
members. This is something we want to give each of you the
opportunity to do.
Mr. Binz. I'll go first.
Senator, thank you very much, Senator Wyden and Ranking
The Chairman. Mr. Binz, this is just for introducing family
Mr. Binz. Yes, I'm about to do that.
The Chairman. Oh, good. Alright.
Mr. Binz. I'm pleased to be joined by a contingent from
Little Rock, Arkansas.
First my father, Walter Binz and my mother, Elizabeth Ann
Binz, who will next week celebrate their 65th wedding
anniversary, next month I should say.
The Chairman. Very good.
Mr. Binz. With my parents is my baby sister, Shirley Binz
Scott. I have 6 younger sisters and Shirley is the youngest of
the 6. She came with them.
My fourth guest is my partner in life for 42 years, Mary
Donahue from Denver, Colorado. She's my best friend and my
So I'm very pleased that they are here with me today.
The Chairman. Very good.
Mr. Robinson. I have one guest, my fiance Douglas Holtz-
The Chairman. We welcome him. Note that I have availed
myself to his counsel over the years on a variety of issues.
Anyone else that you'd like to introduce?
Mr. Robinson. Nope, that's it.
The Chairman. Alright.
Mr. Connor. Mr. Chairman, my wife and children have school
and work commitments today. Quite frankly when I did this 4
years ago Senator Barrasso complimented my daughter on how well
she was behaving. She was then 8 years old.
The Chairman. You didn't want to break the record.
Mr. Connor. Exactly. We didn't think it would get any
better than that.
The Chairman. As the parent of 3 under 6, I got the drift.
Mr. Connor. With all due efforts they are hoping for the
swearing in ceremony.
The Chairman. Very good.
Alright. We will then proceed to hear the opening remarks
of each of you. I know the Senators have plenty of questions.
Let's begin with you, Mr. Connor.
TESTIMONY OF MICHAEL L. CONNOR, NOMINEE TO BE DEPUTY SECRETARY
OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Mr. Connor. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Murkowski and members of the
Committee, I'm honored to be appear before you today as
President Obama's nominee to be the Deputy Secretary of the
Interior. As I mentioned my family was unable to be here with
me today, but none the less having served in the Obama
Administration for over 4 years now I want to acknowledge the
reality that most of the sacrifices of public service are made
by our families. I remain grateful for their continuing
Of course, I am very appreciative that Senator Bingaman was
gracious enough to return to the Capitol to make a statement on
my behalf. I can't do justice in explaining how much it means
to me to have his ongoing support other than to say I wouldn't
be here without it. That he remains the model for how I try and
conduct myself during my time in public service.
As a New Mexican I'm also proud and appreciative that
Senator Udall, given all of his responsibilities, joined us
today to make a statement on my behalf. I certainly have
enjoyed working with the Senator when he was--as his
representation of New Mexico during my time on the committee
and now as the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.
I'm also proud and appreciative that Senator Domenici has
offered a statement on my behalf. He would have liked to have
been here except for his annual public policy conference at New
Mexico State University is taking place this week.
My service as the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation
at the Department of the Interior has been a tremendously
rewarding experience. Through the commitment of Reclamation's
employees, support from the Administration and Congress and the
strong relationship that we have built with an array of
stakeholders, we have accomplished a great deal during the last
4 and a half years. Something outlined in greater detail in my
I'm proud of this record. Not just for the needs that are
addressed, but also because of the cooperation and
collaboration necessary to achieve these results. I have
directed the efforts of a team of over 5,000 Federal employees
who epitomize the definition of public service demonstrating on
a daily basis an ongoing commitment to develop and implement
creative solutions to challenging water resource issues that
further the interest of Reclamation's partners and the public.
I have also worked closely and developed water management
strategies with a diverse group of stakeholders including those
in State and local governments, Indian tribes, agriculture and
municipal water users, power users and environmental interests.
I am now afforded an incredible opportunity to serve at the
Department in a new capacity as Deputy Secretary. I am honored
that President Obama and Secretary Jewell have seen fit to
nominate me for this important position. Of course, this
opportunity would not exist but for the confidence placed in me
by Secretary Salazar, who in 2009 recommended me for my present
position. His support and leadership have been invaluable in
preparing me for this new and significant challenge.
The Deputy Secretary position was most recently held by my
friend and colleague David J. Hayes. His shoes are very large
ones to fill. None the less I'm excited at the prospect and
believe that my background provides me the experience needed to
effectively carry out the important responsibilities of Deputy
Secretary, the second highest ranking official in the
Department and its Chief Operating Officer.
My background is set forth in greater detail in my written
Without a doubt the best experience for the job I hope to
assume is the job I presently have. Water sustains both the
lives of our citizens and the economic activity that is the
foundation of our communities. Its availability and clean and
reliable quantities is critical to the use, management and
enjoyment of other natural resources.
This relationship requires the Bureau of Reclamation to
work across agency lines at Interior and closely with the
States in carrying out its mission and serving the interests of
the American people. Our facilities provide water and power for
a large percentage of the population, but they have also
impacted public resources and property interests that fall
within the responsibility of other Interior bureaus. As a
result in running the Bureau of Reclamation I've also gained
significant insight and understanding into the missions of the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau
of Indian Affairs, U.S. Geological Survey, even the office of
Obviously effectively managing a department with the
breadth of Interior's responsibilities requires an even deeper
understanding of the programs and activities of its individual
bureaus. I am absolutely committed to that task, particularly
given the fact that Interior's mission affects the lives of all
Americans. Our public lands make significant economic
contributions to this country through recreation activities,
production of renewable and fossil fuel based energy resources,
hard rock mineral production, forging and grazing activities,
timber production and the delivery of water for agricultural,
municipal and industrial purposes.
In Fiscal Year 2012 the activities contributed $371 billion
to the economy and supported 2.3 million jobs.
Interior is also entrusted with sacred trust
responsibilities to Indian tribes and Alaska natives, the
preservation of our history in those special places, the
empowerment of insular communities and the protection and
conservation of our wildlife resources. The changes taking
place, not only in this country, but worldwide including
climate change, population growth, shifts in the global economy
and new technological developments present challenges and
opportunities to all sectors of Interior's responsibilities.
I look forward to working closely with Secretary Jewell,
our leadership team and Interior's dedicated career employees
to continue a collaborative process informed by the best
science to refine existing strategies and develop new
initiatives to address ongoing changes and ensure continued
success in carrying out Interior's critical missions.
At the end of the day I'm convinced that the vast majority
of the American public simply wants their leaders in
Washington, DC to work together and collaborate on solutions to
the problems and challenges the country faces. I share this
goal. If confirmed, will commit to this task with a sense of
humility and a keen understanding of the need to work with the
public, affected stakeholders and Congress to most effectively
carry out the department's mission.
With just over 3 years left in this Administration, I'm
well aware that progress on seemingly tractable issues will
best come through cooperative efforts that are oriented toward
achieving certainty and clarity on resource management issues.
The Secretary has chartered the right course with her
substantive engagement on the issues of the day and her clear
commitment to ensure the department will be guided by
transparency and integrity in carrying out its mission. I am
equally committed to these principles and believe we can make
great progress in working on much needed solutions by adhering
to this approach.
Thank you for the opportunity to address my nomination. I
look forward to answering questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Connor follows:]
Prepared Statement of Michael Connor, Nominee for the Position of
Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior
Chairman Wyden, Ranking Member Murkowski, and members of the
committee, I am honored to appear before you today as President Obama's
nominee to be the Deputy Secretary of the Interior. Unfortunately,
given work and school commitments, my family could not join me today.
Nonetheless, having served in the Obama Administration for over 4 years
now, I want to acknowledge the reality that most of the sacrifices of
public service are made by our families and I remain grateful for the
continuing support of my wife Shari and our children Matthew and
Of course, I greatly appreciate that Senator Bingaman was gracious
enough to return to the Capital to make a statement on my behalf. I
can't do justice in explaining how much it means to me to have his
ongoing support - other than to say that I wouldn't be here without it
and that he remains the model for how I conduct myself during my time
in public service. As a New Mexican, I am also proud and appreciative
that Senator Domenici has offered a statement on my behalf. He also
would have been here today were it not for a conflict with this annual
public policy conference at NMSU.
My service as the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation at the
Department of the Interior has been a tremendously rewarding
experience. Through the commitment of Reclamation's employees, support
from the Administration and Congress, and the strong relationship we
have built with an array of stakeholders, we have accomplished a great
deal during the last four and a half years. We have completed historic
binational agreements with Mexico on the Colorado River; negotiated and
begun implementation on five new Indian water rights settlements; and
stood up a WaterSMART program that has increased water supply across
the West by over 700,000 acre-feet per year on average. We completed
several aquatic restoration projects that improve environmental
conditions in a number of western rivers. In support of the President's
commitment to renewable energy, we installed over 100 megawatts of new
hydropower generating capacity on Reclamation facilities while also
identifying opportunities for developing several hundred more.
I am proud of this record, not just for the needs that are being
addressed but also because of the cooperation and collaboration
necessary to achieve these results. I have directed the efforts of a
team of over 5,000 federal employees who epitomize the definition of
public service, demonstrating on a daily basis an ongoing commitment to
develop and implement creative solutions to challenging water resource
issues that further the interests of Reclamation's partners and the
public. I have also worked closely and developed water management
strategies with a diverse group of stakeholders, including those in
state and local government, Indian tribes, agricultural and municipal
water users, power users, and environmental interests.
I am now afforded an incredible opportunity to serve the Department
in a new capacity, as Deputy Secretary. I am honored and appreciative
that President Obama and Secretary Jewell have seen fit to nominate me
for this important position. Of course, this opportunity would not
exist but for the confidence placed in me by Secretary Salazar who in
2009 recommended me for my present position. His support and leadership
have been invaluable in preparing me for this new and significant
The Deputy Secretary position was most recently held by my friend
and colleague David J. Hayes and his shoes are very large ones to fill.
Nonetheless, I am excited at the prospect and believe that my
background provides me the experience needed to effectively carry out
the important responsibilities of Deputy Secretary-the second highest
ranking official in the Department and its Chief Operating Officer.
As I noted to this Committee during my 2009 confirmation hearing, I
grew up in New Mexico, a state rich in natural resources (with the
exception of water) and which has a land base that is slightly over
one-third in federal ownership. It is a state where approximately ten
percent of the population is Native-American and I am proud that my
maternal grandfather was a leader within the Taos Pueblo. My childhood
home, where my parents still live, is located across the street from a
major irrigation canal that serves agricultural land within the
Elephant Butte Irrigation District. It has been said that if you don't
know where you are, you don't know who you are. I would like to think
that knowing and understanding where I am from has helped me better
understand the responsibilities of the Department of the Interior and
the people we serve.
I am also confident that my background as an engineer and lawyer
has helped prepare me well for this position. As an engineer, I worked
in the private sector for GE in its Power Generation Services business
before going back to school to obtain my law degree. Upon graduation, I
began my federal career at Interior in the Solicitor's Honors Program
which afforded me an opportunity to serve as counsel for all of
Interior's bureaus. I also ran the Secretary's Indian water rights
office before moving to the United States Senate as Counsel to this
Committee. As I said in 2009, my 8 years on the Energy and Natural
Resources Committee staff were incredibly rewarding, productive, and
educational, the highlight of my professional career at the time.
Without a doubt, however, the best experience for the job I hope to
assume is the job I presently have. Water is a thread that runs through
all our public and private lands and its availability in clean and
reliable quantities is critical to the use, management, and enjoyment
of other natural resources. Water sustains both the lives of our
citizens and the economic activity that is the foundation for our
communities. This relationship requires that the Bureau of Reclamation
work across agency lines at Interior and closely with the states in
carrying out its mission and serving the interests of the American
people. Moreover, our facilities provide water and power for a large
percentage of the population but they have also impacted public
resources and property interests that are managed or fall within the
responsibility of other Interior bureaus. As a result, in running the
Bureau of Reclamation, I have also gained significant insight and
understanding into the missions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Geological
Survey, and even the Office of Surface Mining.
Obviously, effectively managing a Department with the breadth of
Interior's responsibilities requires an even deeper understanding of
the programs and activities of its individual bureaus. I am absolutely
committed to that task-particularly given the fact that Interior's
mission affects the lives of all Americans. Our public lands make
significant economic contributions to this country through recreation
activities, the production of renewable and fossil fuel based energy
resources, hard rock mineral production, forage and grazing activities,
timber production, and the delivery of water for agricultural,
municipal, and industrial purposes. In fiscal year 2012, these
activities contributed $371 billion to the economy and supported 2.3
Interior is also entrusted with sacred trust responsibilities to
Indian tribes and Alaska Natives, the preservation of our history and
most special places, the empowerment of insular communities, and the
protection and conservation of our wildlife resources. The changes
taking place not only in this country but worldwide, including climate
change, population growth, shifts in the global economy, and new
technological developments, present challenges and opportunities to all
sectors of Interior's responsibilities. I look forward to working
closely with Secretary Jewell, our leadership team, and Interior's
dedicated career employees to continue a collaborative process,
informed by the best science, to refine existing strategies and develop
new initiatives to address ongoing changes and ensure continued success
in carrying out Interior's critical missions.
At the end of the day, I am convinced that the vast majority of the
American public simply wants their leaders in Washington D.C. to work
together and collaborate on solutions to the problems and challenges
this country faces. I am absolutely committed to this goal and, if
confirmed, will commit to this task with a sense of humility and a keen
understanding of the need to work with the public, affected
stakeholders, and Congress to most effectively carry out the
With just over 3 years left in this Administration, I am well aware
that progress on seemingly intractable issues will best come through
cooperative efforts grounded in a fundamental recognition of the
legitimate interests of affected stakeholders and an unwavering
commitment to achieving certainty and clarity on resource management
issues. The Secretary has charted the right course with her substantive
engagement on the issues of the day and her clear commitment to ensure
the Department will be guided by transparency and integrity in carrying
out its mission. I am equally committed to these principles and believe
we can make great progress in working on much needed solutions by
adhering to this approach.
Thank you for the opportunity to address my nomination. I look
forward to continuing to work with you and will be happy to respond to
questions at the appropriate time.
The Chairman. Mr. Connor, thank you. You'll have questions
in a moment.
TESTIMONY OF ELIZABETH (BETH) ROBINSON, NOMINEE TO BE UNDER
SECRETARY FOR MANAGEMENT AND PERFORMANCE, DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
Ms. Robinson. Thank you.
I have a longer written statement which----
The Chairman. It will be put into the record without
Ms. Robinson. Thank you. I'll just summarize it here.
The Chairman. Extra points for summarizing.
Ms. Robinson. Chairman Wyden, Ranking Member Murkowski and
all the members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity
to appear today. It is truly an honor. I also appreciate the
time that members have already spent with me in meetings. I
look forward to working with the committee to address the
challenges that face the department's critical programs and
I've worked on energy issues at many points in my career.
Most recently I've focused on strategic planning, performance
and project management. If confirmed I would seek to undertake
the very important DOE mission in the most effective and
efficient manner possible, especially during a time when there
are other competing demands for our Nation's resources.
The position of Under Secretary for Management and
Performance carries a tremendous responsibility as the pivotal
point where operations, accountability, evaluation and sound
management all reside. It also includes the environmental and
legacy management programs which are responsible for cleaning
up our World War II and cold war legacies and which are
especially important to me and to many members of this
DOE has faced challenges in the performance of its project
management functions which demand continuous and focused
efforts. If confirmed I will build upon the progress that DOE
has made to improve the results for the agency and would work
closely with all stakeholders. I would also make it a priority
to pursue agency and Congressional clean up requirements and
work with affected constituencies to understand their concerns.
I believe that public service is a duty, privilege and an
honor. I have served as a career staff member and most recently
as a political appointee for nearly 25 years in the Executive
and Legislative branches of government. I believe in the
importance of creative and tenacious leaders in Federal
Government agencies. I'm enthusiastic about the opportunity, if
confirmed, to serve as DOE's Under Secretary for Management and
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I thank you
again for your consideration on my nomination. I look forward
to answering any questions.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Robinson follows:]
Prepared Statement of Elizabeth (Beth) Robinson, Nominee to be Under
Secretary for Management and Performance, U.S. Department of Energy
Chairman Wyden, Ranking Member Murkowski, and Members of the
Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today as
you consider my nomination for the position of Under Secretary for
Management and Performance at the Department of Energy (DOE). It is an
honor to be here. I also appreciate the time Members of this Committee
already have taken to meet with me, and, if confirmed, I look forward
to working with the Committee to address the challenges of maintaining
the Department's critical efforts to ensure America's security and
prosperity by addressing its environmental, energy and nuclear issues
through strong performance and management practices.
I am privileged to have been nominated by the President to this
post. I have worked on energy issues at many points in my career. After
growing up in Seattle, Washington, studying at the University of
Washington, graduating from Reed College, and earning a PhD from the
Massachusetts Institute for Technology, I started my career as a
geophysicist focused on fluid dynamics in Earth processes. I eventually
joined the staff of the House Committee on Science, Space and
Technology, where I worked for Chairman George E. Brown of California-a
very wise man and someone that I am very glad I came to know well
before his untimely death. For the Committee, I covered energy R&D; and
I later took that experience with me to the Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) where my first position was as a budget examiner for the
More recently, I have focused my career--at OMB, then at the
Congressional Budget Office and now the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA)--on strategic planning, performance, and
oversight of project management. Working with Secretary Moniz, Deputy
Secretary Poneman, DOE's dedicated professionals, Congress, the White
House, the private sector, and other key constituencies, I would strive
to meet the President's and Nation's objectives for DOE. If confirmed I
would also be keenly focused on undertaking the DOE mission in the most
effective and efficient manner possible, especially during a time when
there are other competing demands for our Nation's resources.
The position of Under Secretary for Management and Performance
carries a tremendous responsibility as the pivotal point where
operations, accountability, evaluation, and sound management all
reside. This position also includes the Environmental and Legacy
Management programs, which are responsible for cleaning up our World
War II and Cold War legacy, and which I know is important to many
members of this Committee.
I know that DOE has faced challenges in the performance of its
project management functions, which demands continuous and focused
efforts. If confirmed, I would build upon the progress that DOE has
made and continue to improve the management, performance, and results
for the agency.
Over my career, I am fortunate to have gained broad experience with
management and performance issues and challenges. At OMB, I enjoyed a
unique perspective from which to learn about, and participate in, large
and significant planning, cost-estimating, and evaluation processes. At
the House Science Committee and congressional Office of Technology
Assessment, I gained valuable expertise in project planning, execution,
and oversight, and, more importantly, how to work with the Congress on
those issues. My executive experience in several agencies has also
provided direct experience in the leadership of complex organizations.
If confirmed, I would make it a priority to work closely with DOE
leadership, my staff, and each of the constituencies with which DOE's
programs interface to understand the key management and performance
issues that DOE and its component programs face. I would also make it a
priority to pursue agency and congressional cleanup requirements, and
work with affected constituencies to understand their concerns. I would
work with my staff so that those issues receive the appropriate
attention and resources to ensure agency success in meeting such
I believe public service is a duty, a privilege, and an honor. I
have served as a career staff member for nearly 25 years in the
executive and legislative branches of government, and I believe in the
importance of creative and tenacious leaders in the Nation's government
agencies. I am enthusiastic about the opportunity, if confirmed, to
address the challenges of the position DOE Under Secretary for
Management and Performance and to bring my energy policy, management,
performance, and leadership experience into the service of DOE and the
Mr. Chairman and Members of the committee, I thank you, again, for
your consideration of my nomination, and I look forward to answering
any questions you may have.
The Chairman. Dr. Robinson, thank you.
TESTIMONY OF RONALD J. BINZ, NOMINEE TO BE A MEMBER OF THE
FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSIONER
Mr. Binz. Thank you, Chairman Wyden, Ranking Member
Murkowski and members of the committee. I'm greatly honored to
be before you here today as a nominee to the Federal Energy
I would like to thank President Obama for nominating me.
I was especially pleased to have Senators Udall and Bennet
here as a support for me. I appreciate the kind words for my
I know that FERC has substantial responsibilities and
Congress might even add more to those responsibilities as it
considers energy legislation in the coming years. The agency is
critical to strengthening the gas and electric infrastructure
of this country to provide greater reliability, security and
economic growth. As was mentioned earlier the energy industry
has an incredibly large impact on this Nation's economy.
We need to enable new sources of energy to connect to the
grid and promote fair and efficient markets to reduce costs to
consumers. These are the kinds of things I've been doing for
the last 34 years. I would welcome the opportunity to apply
myself diligently to doing that in the new role, if I'm
I believe that my background is well suited to meet many
challenges that the FERC will be facing should I be confirmed.
My tenure on the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and as a
member and officer in the National Association of Regulatory
Utilities Commissioners taught me much about working within a
State environment and about collaboration with other regulatory
professionals. I believe I have earned a reputation and was
pleased to hear both Senators and Udall emphasize that I'm a
pragmatic, problem solver. Under the leadership of Governor
Ritter we searched for consensus solutions in Colorado that
benefited our State's consumers.
My service as a NARUC leader deepened my respect and my
understanding of our Nation's regional diversity with respect
to energy resources and needs. Those experiences will help me
enormously if I am confirmed to the FERC. I pledge to this
committee that I will work with my colleagues on the Commission
to work across regional, philosophical and party lines to make
regulatory decisions that work best for our Nation's energy
consumers and market participants.
FERC faces many challenges in protecting consumers from
market manipulation, for ensuring reliability of the electric
grid, enabling the development of energy infrastructure like
gas pipelines, storage facilities, LNG facilities and terminals
and ensuring the protection of those assets from cyber and
physical threats. If confirmed I intend to pursue these issues.
Again, pledge to work diligently with the Energy and Natural
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the
committee today. This concludes my statement. I am pleased to
answer any questions that you may have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Binz follows:]
Prepared Statement of Ron Binz, Nominee to be a Member of the Federal
Energy Regulatory Comission
Thank you Chairman Wyden, Ranking Member Murkowski and members of
the Committee. I am greatly honored to be before you today as a nominee
to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). I would like to
thank President Obama for nominating me. I am especially pleased to
acknowledge my own two Senators from Colorado. Senator Udall's and
Senator Bennett's support means a great deal to me, and I appreciate
their kind words regarding my nomination. Last, but most importantly, I
want to acknowledge my family, who have been so supportive of my career
in public service.
I know that FERC has with substantial responsibilities, and
Congress could add even more as it takes up new energy bills. Issues
before FERC in the coming years will be critical to strengthening
electric and gas infrastructure for greater reliability, security, and
economic growth; enabling new sources of energy to connect to the
electric grid; and, promoting fair and efficient markets to reduce
costs to consumers. I welcome the opportunity to apply myself
diligently to these efforts if I am confirmed.
I believe my background is well-suited to meet many of the
challenges FERC will be facing should I be confirmed. My tenure on the
Colorado Commission and as a member of the National Association of
Regulatory Utility Commissioners taught me much about working within a
state environment and about collaboration with other regulatory
professionals. I believe I earned a reputation as pragmatic problem
solver under the leadership of Governor Ritter as we searched for
consensus solutions that benefitted our state's consumers. Similarly,
my service as a NARUC leader deepened my respect for and my
understanding of our nation's regional diversity. Those experiences
will help me enormously if I am confirmed to the FERC. And I pledge to
the Committee that I will work with my colleagues on the Commission to
work across regional, philosophical and party lines to make regulatory
decisions that work best for our nation's energy consumers and market
FERC faces many challenges in protecting consumers from energy
market manipulation, ensuring the reliability of the electric grid,
enabling the development of energy infrastructure like gas pipe lines,
storage facilities and LNG terminals, and ensuring the protection of
those assets from cyber and physical threats. If confirmed, I intend to
pursue these issues and again pledge to work diligently with the Energy
and Natural Resources Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to
appear before the committee today. That concludes my statement. I am
pleased to answer any questions you may have.
The Chairman. Mr. Binz, thank you. Thanks to all of you.
Let me start with you, Mr. Binz, if I might. Start with
I just back from the Bakken at the invitation of Senator
Hoeven. I can tell you this follows the visit I made to the gas
fields with Senator Manchin and Senator Murkowski and I have
visited with respect to these facilities as well. The visit to
the Balkans, or excuse me, the Bakken reaffirms----
The Chairman. Know where we are? Take out the map.
The Chairman. The visit to the Bakken really reaffirms my
support for tapping the potential of natural gas.
It's 50 percent cleaner than the other fossil fuels.
It gives our consumers and our businesses a pricing
We've got it, the world wants it.
Those are my views with respect to natural gas.
I think it would be helpful as we start today if you laid
out your views with respect to natural gas.
Mr. Binz. Thank you, Senator.
To begin with I agree with you that the Balkans don't have
enough natural gas and that maybe the Bakkens can send some gas
Seriously, I agree with the sentiment you expressed. In
Colorado most recently I led an effort to move to the cleaner
fuels from natural gas for the older plants which needed to be
retired. The Nation has a great resource in natural gas that's
getting larger by the minute as we discover more and more
opportunities to develop shale gas.
I think it's a very important fuel. It is the near perfect
fuel for the next couple decades. If we perfect capture and
sequestration of carbon, it will be permanently good fuel for
this country's use.
I think that the reliance on natural gas is an important
step to clean up the air. With respect to criteria pollutants
it has much lower emissions of all of those gases which EPA
regulates long before they get to the question of carbon
So I'm fully supportive of the development of natural gas
resources. I've spoken to several LNG exporters. Have expressed
my interest in making sure that applications for their
terminals make it through the FERC as expeditiously as
I also have spoken to many players in the natural gas
industry. I'm fully committed to streamlining the FERC's
processing of natural gas applications.
Finally I think the electric markets need to signal to the
gas markets that more pipeline capacity is needed because the
largest single use of natural gas is no longer space
conditioning for residential customers, it's electric
generation. That's an entirely--that's a new makeover of the
gas system. FERC needs to respond to that.
The Chairman. On some of these past quotes on this topic,
why don't you address those?
Mr. Binz. I should take on directly the quote that has been
repeated most often. That is that I expressed a concern that
natural gas could be a dead end in 2035. What I was talking
about is that if we take seriously the need to reduce carbon in
our generation fleet natural gas is a very great fuel for doing
that right now. It has half the carbon emissions of coal and
oil. But eventually as we move forward and learn how to do
sequestration that will benefit natural gas in the long run.
If I just sort of stopped my statement at that point and
not used the dead end phrase I would probably be in a lot
better shape right now. But what I--I fully embrace the use of
natural gas. I've said that in many speeches over many years. I
don't want something I said, probably uncarefully, to be taken
out of context to mean something different.
The Chairman. Thank you.
I suspect those of us on this side of the dais have once in
a while said something that we'd like to take back as well. I
Let me ask you next about something else this committee
feels strongly about and that's making sure that the States
have a wide berth in choosing which fuels they want to use to
generate electricity. Do you agree that fuel choice for
electricity generation is best left to the States?
Mr. Binz. Senator Wyden, we have an expression that I've
been using with my colleagues, future colleagues in the FERC,
if I'm confirmed to the FERC. The FERC is fuel neutral, but it
is not reliability neutral. By that we mean that the agency has
no role in selecting fuel for power plants. It does not site
Its role is to build out an energy infrastructure which all
resources can access. So I absolutely agree this is the role
that the State players play. As a former Commissioner from
Colorado, I did that. I understood that was the State role.
If I'm confirmed to the FERC, I understand this is a
different job. The FERC does not make resource selections nor
should it. Its influence on resources is very--and the
selection of resources is very indirect. It removes barriers
for resources connecting to the electric grid. It removes
barriers from the flow the natural gas to the places that it's
needed for generation.
But the economics of those fuels, the policies of those
States and frankly, the policies of this Congress are what's
going to make a determination about which fuels are selected,
not the FERC.
The Chairman. Another bipartisan tradition in this
committee is steering clear of making decisions about fuel
choice and basically leaving that to the markets.
Do you believe FERC ought to pick electricity generation
winners and losers?
Mr. Binz. No, I do not, Senator.
Again, there are other agencies which have to do with
emissions. The EPA, of course, is the lead one on that.
I believe that the FERC's relationship there is to ensure
that whatever agencies do with respect to this it happens in a
way that respects the reliability of the grid. That's the
FERC's responsibility. It is not to pick winners and losers.
If we go to places like the PJM or the MISO markets those
are competitive markets where fuels are up or down. Producers
are in or out depending upon their economics of their
businesses. That's how it should be.
The agency should not put a thumb on the scale for any
resources. It should ensure that we are able, in this country,
to effectuate an all the above strategy. We are going to need
all of these resources. We're going to need to move forward on
research allowing the fossil resources to be lower carbon in
The Chairman. One last question.
Mr. Binz. That is not the role of the FERC. I haven't been
auditioning for the FERC for all these years. I've been writing
papers about what I think may happen to the energy sector. I
know where the lines are drawn.
The Chairman. One last question for this round.
The Commission has siting authority over both hydro and
interstate natural gas pipelines. On the gas side, things have
moved a bit more quickly. Obviously there need to be some
improvements. On the hydro side, the Commission is often slow
to act because it waits for State approvals.
Clearly a more robust pipeline network and additional
emission-free hydro are in the public interest.
Will you work with us, and I touched on it in my opening
statement, to make the natural gas pipeline and hydro power
processes more timely and more efficient? We believe you can do
that consistent with environmental standards. Will you work
Mr. Binz. I will do that, sir.
The Chairman. Improving the approval process?
Mr. Binz. Excuse me, I will do that, Senator. I would like
to thank the members of the committee who I've had the
opportunity to meet with me. I think I stressed that in every
one of my meetings.
I see the FERC as key to building out energy infrastructure
in this country which will help us with customer rates and will
help us with environmental compliance. That's the role of the
The Chairman. Very good.
Senator Murkowski. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Binz, let's continue the questioning with you.
I'm trying to reconcile some things that were brought up in
our meeting last week. Statements that you made that just don't
seem to line up with information that I learned that same day.
When we met you assured me that the only team, and this was
your words, the only team that you had in place to help with
the nomination was comprised on FERC employees from their
External Affairs Office. You gave me the impression that this
public relations firm, Vinn Squared, had contacted you somewhat
out of the blue to offer help to dispense some letters to the
industry that you had put together. Nothing wrong with that.
You did though acknowledge that the PR firm was being paid
for by Green Tech action fund which is in turn funded by the
Energy Foundation which is your former client. You also
admitted that you thought perhaps the Energy Foundation or an
affiliate had hired a former Senate staffer, who is now a
lobbyist, to help you with your nomination efforts. You weren't
sure whether or not another lobbyist you mentioned was a
volunteer or being paid for services, again by your former
So then I learned, again that same day, in emails that were
released by FERC that this effort was apparently much more
involved than you had indicated. We've got an email that came
from the FERC dated July 8. FERC External Affairs, the White
House nomination liaison as well as lobbyists or consultants
from Cassidy and Associates, Vinn Squared, HAW Ink, PK
Strategies, the Energy Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation
were involved or certainly invited to participate in a meeting
on your nomination.
Then the following day there's an email in which you ask
the team and again, that's your word, and that includes
everyone on the earlier email except the White House. So you
ask them to review materials that were going to be sent to this
committee as part of your formal nominations packet.
You then sought edits from this team to what you called
``Binz bio document.'' That was to be and I presume actually
was submitted to the committee by the FERC personnel as an
So what I'm trying to reconcile is you've effectively got a
team, a shadow team of lobbyists, of PR experts, that have been
helping throughout which again, as I suggested, I hate to think
that this is going to be the new normal. But what I can't
reconcile is your statement to me that said the only ones that
you were working with. The only ones you were working with were
the FERC External team. I don't--I'm not following how one
lines up with the emails that again, were a part of this FOIA
Mr. Binz. Sure, Senator. I'd be glad to respond to that.
I apologize if I left a different impression that what we
now agree has happened. I, in fact, I had disclosed to your
Chief Counsel the email prior to this that showed the presence
of all those people in that meeting.
I've gone back and--I had been asked in my interview with
your staff if I was aware of any coordination between Vinn
Squared and the White House. I told them that I was not aware
of that. Then I recalled that there had been this one meeting.
I think I copied Mr. McCormick on an email about that.
I went back after our meeting with you to list every
contact I've had with these folks. I think it's a grand total
of 3 including the initial contact by Mr. Meehan that day and
his staffs offered to send out my press materials. I had this
conference call that you're just referencing and this is the
one that I told Mr. McCormick about after my meeting with him
last week. Then there was one more.
As far as I know I've had no contact with these folks since
July the 15th. This is the Vinn Squared people. In fact I asked
them to stop sending me material. I did not want to coordinate
I have spoken to Mr. Miller, Chris Miller, a few times
subsequently. I've relied on him for just--he's an old hand at
these things. He worked on committee staff. I asked him for
advice occasionally. But that's really it.
I have hired no one. I'm paying no one. I have and am a
solo practitioner. I don't even have administrative support in
When the nomination came up I was glad to accept some
assistance in dealing with the press because that was--so
again, I very much apologize. I would be glad to get together
and talk further with your staff about this. I'm trying to be
as open as a book on these things.
I also agree with you that this is an unfortunate situation
if this is the new normal. As you can imagine when I was
nominated for this position back in--when I was told by the
White House I had the position. I predicted there was going to
be a fight over this nomination because of my experience with
these very same conservative organizations in Colorado. I had a
running battle with them for 2 years.
Many of the same tactics that you've seen rolled out here
were visited upon me in Colorado. I didn't ask anyone to hire
anybody on my behalf. But it doesn't surprise me that people
who saw what had happened in Colorado figured that on a
prophylactic basis it made sense to get somebody involved in
That's what they did. I have attempted to operate as
independently from anybody as possible with--but fully
understanding the obligations that are impressed upon an
appointee in a situation like this. So again, my apologies,
Senator Murkowski. I would be very pleased to meet with your
staff or yourself to iron out any misunderstandings we have.
I did not intentionally mean to mislead you about this if
that's in fact what happened. I will again, I'll just be
repeating myself. But I want to get past this with you. I do
not want this to become a problem.
Senator Murkowski. Mr. Binz, my time has expired. I do have
other questions for you. But I'm sure that you can see the
concern that I have when you sat in my office and assured me
that there was no coordination with anyone outside of FERC.
Then to read the series of emails albeit there weren't more
than a handful, but directly contradicting what I had been
So I appreciate your explanation. But I think it does speak
to the issue that I have raised which is ensuring that the FERC
is absolutely independent and that the leadership at the top
Mr. Binz. Senator, I would have it no other way.
The Chairman. Senator Udall.
Senator Mark Udall. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As I listened to Senator Murkowski and Mr. Binz discuss
their meeting I can't help but think about all of us who run
for re-election and increasingly in the environment we find
ourselves there are outside forces that come to bear over which
we have no control, no connection. It's certainly frustrating I
know for all of us as Senators and it's become more the norm
frankly, it seems like and when you have high profile
nominations and nominees. So I have been there, Mr. Binz. I
know Senator Murkowski you've experienced some of those same
outside forces at work on your campaigns.
Let me turn back to Colorado. I'm a home State booster. I
make no apologies for that. I think we've got an all of the
above strategy that's underway.
Mr. Binz, you've been a part of that. I mean, we've got
renewables. We've got energy efficiency, technologies that are
on the cutting edge. We've got small scale hydro. We're working
on clean coal, natural gas.
Can you talk about Colorado and our mix of energy resources
and the benefits of a diverse energy portfolio?
Mr. Binz. Yes, thank you very much, Senator Udall.
Just to start at the end you might think from all the
rhetoric that's been written about me that I personally went
out and with a sledgehammer close coal plants in Colorado. In
fact, Public Service of Colorado is still 40 percent coal. It's
about 30 percent natural gas and the balance is a mix of hydro
and other renewables.
Public Service of Colorado is the largest utility in the
State. It has a very balanced portfolio. It's the leading
utility in the country for wind energy on its system. That all
happened, that transformation, happened over a period of only
about 6 years beginning shortly before I came on the Commission
through my term on the Commission.
Excel will tell you that they are now as pleased with the
mix of portfolio they've got as they have ever been. They write
articles about this.
Now that has had an impact on the State's economy as well.
I want to be real clear about this. Colorado is a gas producing
State. We produce twice as much as--well, we produce 3 times as
much as we use in State. So we export two-thirds of the gas.
We have seen a boom in jobs in the gas industry in
Colorado. We have seen a huge growth in the wind industry and
in the solar industry in Colorado. Governor Ritter, when he was
Governor, dubbed that the new energy economy. It's attracted a
lot of jobs.
During the great downturn that was the only sector in
Colorado that actually showed economic growth. The Governor was
very proud of that.
The Commission and Senator Murkowski this really goes to
your issue. The Commission and the Governor operated
independently of each other. I was appointed, I think, by Bill
Ritter because he knew of my theory of regulation, how I worked
with people and what I cared about. I didn't take directions
from the Governor's office.
I implemented legislation when it came across from the
General Assembly. But we were an independent commission at the
Public Utilities Commissions. Obviously I see the exact
parallel at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, different
duties, but same level of independence.
Senator Udall, I think the other point about Colorado
that's really important. This growth and diversity of resources
happened without a significant consumer rates impact. The
renewable energy standard in Colorado caps in law rate
increases at 2 percent because of renewables. We manage to that
2 percent at the Public Utilities Commission and working with
Senator Mark Udall. Thank you, Mr. Binz.
Let me ask you, I think it's a simple question. Does FERC
or the FERC Chairman have any role in implementing the
President's climate agenda?
Mr. Binz. The FERC does not.
I want to be very clear about this. I was told by the White
House that I would be the nominee on April the 4. I was vetted
for a couple months. My appointment was not announced until the
same week as the Climate Action Plan was announced.
As far as I'm concerned that was a coincidence because I've
never spoken with anyone at the White House about the Climate
Action Plan or any role that FERC----
Senator Mark Udall. Never had a conversation with anybody
in the White House about----
Mr. Binz. Not about that.
Senator Mark Udall. Climate agenda.
Mr. Binz. My only substantive interview at the White House
was in December. It was with Heather Zichal. But they have
never asked me for any commitment about what I would do at the
FERC with respect to the Climate Action Plan.
Senator Mark Udall. So you haven't made any promises to the
White House or anyone else about what you might do with regards
to climate if you were to be confirmed?
Mr. Binz. None.
Senator Mark Udall. Thank you, Mr. Binz.
The Chairman. Senator Alexander.
Senator Alexander. Thank you.
I want to thank the witnesses for being here. Thank you for
Mr. Binz, I'd like to explore whether you're a high cost or
a low cost regulator. This is what I mean. Senator Corker and I
had a roundtable with the Tennessee Valley Authority this last
Friday on the question of low rates.
In my experience whether we have more or less people
working for coal plants or more or less people working for wind
mills or more or less people working for natural gas plants is
not where the jobs are. The jobs come when we have cheap
electricity and Eastman Chemical stays in Tennessee instead of
going to Asia or we have 1,000 other suppliers who are in
Tennessee instead of Mexico. So we want clean, reliable, cheap
Now in many of your presentations and speeches you use
Germany as an illustration. You don't say we should adopt
Germany's policies, but you use it as an illustration. You talk
in your comments about utility regulators that need to shift
from backward looking focus on cost to forward looking emphasis
on value and societal incomes.
So far as I can tell in the past you've supported wind and
solar incentives. You supported the renewal electricity
standard. All of which takes more transmission lines. All this
adds to the cost.
I've been to Germany recently. They've subsidized wind.
They've subsidized solar. They've closed their nuclear plants.
So the result is they're buying nuclear power from France.
They're buying gas from a very unreliable partner, Russia. They
are actually--they've adopted a cap and trade which we
rejected. They're actually having to build coal plants in order
to have enough electricity.
I asked the Economic Minister why their prices were the
highest in Europe and what he would say to a manufacturing
company that wanted to come to Germany. You'd said I'd go
somewhere else because of the high prices.
Is that formula the kind of regulatory formula that you'd
like to see the United States adopt?
Mr. Binz. Not even close, Senator.
Senator Alexander. But you support the renewable
electricity standard, correct?
Mr. Binz. I do.
Senator Alexander. You testified on behalf of it.
Mr. Binz. I did in Colorado.
Senator Alexander. But you supported for wind and solar,
right and the transmission lines to carry them and all those
cost money, right?
Mr. Binz. Senator, the regulation we did in Colorado, I
told you, I told Senator Udall, had a very small impact on
Senator Alexander. But a national renewable electricity
standard would have a large effect on electric rates, would it
Mr. Binz. I don't know that, Senator.
But in Colorado rates for our residential customers went up
less than the rate of inflation during the time that I was on
the Commission. That means in real terms bills were actually
lower at the time at the end of my term than they were at the
beginning of the term.
The only use I've ever made of Germany is to talk about how
poor their solar resources are. Germany and with all due
respect, Senator Murkowski, Germany has about the solar
insulation levels Alaska does. Yet they're pushing very hard on
Now the point of me putting that slide in my presentation
was tell the people of Michigan and the people of Colorado and
the people of Arizona what a great resource they have.
Senator Alexander. I only have about a minute left.
Do you favor the wind production tax credit?
Do you think it's time to repeal it after 22 years since it
costs $12 billion to renew it just for a single year?
Mr. Binz. Senator, as I said to you in your office on our
meeting, I think that proposals to phase that out are timely.
Senator Alexander. Along that line one job of the FERC is
to make sure the market is functioning properly, correct?
Mr. Binz. Yes.
Senator Alexander. Recently J.P. Morgan reached a
settlement with FERC for market manipulation.
Mr. Binz. Yes.
Senator Alexander. There are a number of studies that
showed that the wind production tax credit is allowing billions
of dollars to go to wind producers. They, in effect, are making
so much money that they pay the markets to take their wind
creating a negative pricing phenomenon that in some areas
affects 13 percent of all the hourly prices for wind. It's
undermining, in the opinion of some studies, the reliability of
our conventional base supplies of electricity like nuclear.
Would you be willing, if you were Chairman of the FERC, to
look at that phenomenon of negative pricing caused by the wind
production tax credit as a way of determining whether the
market is functioning properly?
Mr. Binz. Senator, I think that the organized markets have
several challenges. I have been saying, loudly, that one of the
early things I would like to do with the support of colleagues
on the FERC, if I'm confirmed to the FERC, with the support of
those colleagues, is to do a stem to stern review of the energy
markets. The issue you've raised----
Senator Alexander. Would that include the affected wind
production tax credit?
Mr. Binz. Yes, it would include that. Yes.
Senator Alexander. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Alexander.
Most senators weren't here when I outlined the authority
FERC has and doesn't have. On the point of a National Renewable
Energy Standard, FERC would only have authority if the Congress
gave it to them, if the Congress passed it into law.
Senator Franken. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Binz, thank you for visiting my office last week. I
enjoyed discussing a range of energy issues with you. I'd like
to briefly discuss distributed energy with you today which we
In the United States up to 36 percent of the total energy
we consume is lost from power plants, industrial facilities and
buildings as waste heat. Combined heat and power or co-
generation, as some people call it, and district energy systems
are available. They're tested technologies that could be used
to capture waste heat and put it to use in Minnesota, in the
city of St. Paul. We have a biomass district energy system
that's a great model on how to do this.
By using more of our abundant biomass more efficiently we
can support more forest jobs. I know Senator Risch when we talk
about wildfires has talked about all the hazardous waste that
exists within our forests and that could be, it needs to be
cleaned out in order to prevent fires. This can also provide
My question is what role do you see for combined heat and
power and other forms of distributed generation in enhancing
power grid resilience?
Mr. Binz. Thank you, Senator Franken.
Actually you ended where I was going to start. I think that
the experience from super storm Sandy and other events like
that have shown the merit of having local generation and its
ability to recover quickly from disasters.
The economics of distributed generation vary from resource
to resource. I'm not in a position to guess what the final
balance will be. But I do understand the importance of those
The FERC will not have a direct role in encouraging any
particular resource including distributor resources. The FERC
does have the following role, to make sure that these market
structures and transmission policy are set in a way that allows
the integration of all these resources. So again, it's more in
the nature of removing barriers than it is actually pushing
I said this earlier. I have a strong belief that the
economics and the physics for that matter of these resources
should be determinative of what we deploy. But what we don't
want is we don't want a grid or a pipeline system built for
another era to interfere an access of these resources to the
I have a lot of friends who talk a lot about distributive
resources. I understand, especially CHP combined heat and
power. I think that's a wasted resource in the U.S. in the
sense that we're venting heat. We're dissipating heat which
could be used for electricity.
So I'm supportive of that as an American citizen. I won't
have a role as a FERC Chairman, per se, except as I described
to make sure that the grid is able to accept all of those
Senator Franken. You mentioned Hurricane Sandy. There were
some places that were--distributed energy systems that were
operating in island mode. Because the rest of the transmission
went down they were able to be resilient and keep producing
I want to talk--turn to Mr. Connor.
As the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation you and I
have discussed the Lewis and Clark regional water system many
times. In the last budget request the Administration
recommended that local project sponsors should consider
increasing their local match beyond what is required in order
to get projects completed on a reasonable time line. In fact,
all of the State and local entities have virtually paid 100
percent of what they--was due. The Federal Government hasn't
paid its part.
Local governments in Minnesota are beginning to consider
that option and all the risks that it involves even if they put
up more money though, there's no guarantee that Federal dollars
will ever flow faster than they currently are. Are there any
assurances that you can give me on behalf of my constituents
that if local governments increase their contribution beyond
what they're required to give they will finally receive the
funding that they were promised from the Federal Government?
As Deputy Secretary will you fight to make this funding
more of a priority within the Administration than it has been
in the past few years?
Mr. Connor. Senator Franken, thank you for the question.
Yes, this is an ongoing dialog that you and I have had about
the funding levels for these rural water programs.
Yes, I can assure you that we will continue within the
budget resources we have to have as strong a rural water
program as we can. The reality the last 2 cycles, the last
cycle, the 2014 budget in particular and the reductions that
we've had overall for Reclamation funding and given our
priorities, that that program, in particular, took one of the
largest hits. But at the same time we still are trying to
maintain funding as robust as we can.
We will make good use of any additional funding that we
have such as what's written into the Senate Energy and Water
Appropriations bill and continue to try and make progress as
best as possible, notwithstanding. Just for context where we
can find the resources we do invest them in this program. Over
the last 4 years we've invested $512 million into--from the
Administration's budgets and the Recovery Act into the rural
water program. So even though there are reductions, given our
priority system, we're trying to keep funding levels as high as
we can. I will continue to advocate for the important role that
that program plays.
Senator Franken. Thank you.
The Chairman. We are going to have to move on.
Senator Franken. Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Connor knows what a high priority this is for me and
for the people of, especially of South Western Minnesota.
The Chairman. Alright. I share the Senator's views.
Senator Barrasso. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Connor, thanks so much for coming to my office for the
visit. Please give your entire family my very best.
Dr. Robinson, congratulations.
Mr. Binz, congratulations to you as well.
I do have some questions, Mr. Binz.
One is obviously it's disturbing to many of us that telling
Senator Murkowski something in private and then having emails
come out that conflicts that afterwards is very concerning to
many of us.
I do have questions specifically about natural gas. The
U.S. has roughly 100 years worth of natural gas. Natural gas is
going to be critical to ensuring American families and
businesses have an affordable, reliable, secure supply of
You've made comments about your previous statement that you
may have said we're, I think, in artful. In March you stated in
reference to natural gas that without carbon capture and
storage, without carbon capture and storage, to clarify your
remarks, that I think it's a dead end that will dead end in
2035 when we're going to have to be better on carbon than even
natural gas, you said, will allow us to do.
I find the comments troubling and far outside the
mainstream. Because to be clear you're saying that the future
of natural gas, not just coal, but natural gas depends on
carbon capture and sequestration, a technology not currently
available, not currently economically viable, not commercially
viable, may never be for natural gas. So we're saying that
under those circumstances if they can't make this technology
economically, commercially viable that we would then leave 80
years worth of affordable natural gas in the ground.
I think the views are troubling because you've been
nominated to lead FERC, the agency responsible for permitting
the interstate natural gas pipelines, the natural gas storage
facilities, the LNG export terminal facilities intended to be
in place well beyond 2035. You're going to have to make those
So if confirmed you'll be in an ideal position to act on
the beliefs about the ``dead end'' for natural gas in 2035 by
blocking permits that would be an extension, be there way
beyond 2035 for the pipelines, the storage facilities, the
export terminals. So given your belief that we should stop
using natural gas by 2035 that it must dead end in 21 years if
there is not this carbon capture and sequestration technology
available at that time. Is it fair to say that your views
fundamentally conflict with FERC's mission to support the use
of natural gas?
Mr. Binz. Senator, I cannot agree with your conclusion.
I've already clarified today that I think this is a terrific
fuel. It's needed right now and maybe in the permanent energy
Now, Senator, behind all of this, as both of us know, is
the assumption that we will decarbonizes or significantly
reduce carbon in the electric generation sector. That won't be
up to me at the FERC. It won't be up to the FERC. It will
probably be up to Congress and the EPA or some combination
thereof or the courts.
But I'm just speaking as someone informed about the energy
industry. My--aside from beside or excuse me, rather than being
outside the mainstream I think they're very much in the
mainstream. This is what the MIT research is saying. This is
what the Electric Power Research Institute is saying. They're
publishing all of these graphs showing the amount of carbon
capture and sequestration is ramping up in order to meet a 2050
I think they're right. You may not agree with them or there
may be others who don't agree with them. But if they're right,
if we will have to reduce carbon then we're going to have to
make plans at some point.
We've got 20 years to do it. I think there's a very good
chance that the technology will be invented or perfected by
Senator Barrasso. But the decisions that you're going to
make now, the decisions that you're going to make now in terms
of natural gas pipelines, natural gas storage facilities and
LNG export terminals, we're not going to know what that
technology is going to be 20 years from now. You're going to be
conducting the reviews today.
The EPA and the Sierra Club have argued that FERC should
dramatically expand its environmental reviews for natural gas
pipelines and LNG export terminals. They say FERC should
consider the upstream impacts of natural gas pipelines and LNG
export terminals such as, you know, hydraulic fracturing.
The Sierra Club is arguing that agencies like FERC should
consider the downstream impacts of natural gas pipelines and
LNG export terminals.
The Sierra Club's efforts are part of what is called,
``beyond natural gas,'' their campaign to fight the production
and use of natural gas.
So if confirmed will you expand FERC's environmental review
process for natural gas pipelines and LNG export terminals
specifically? Will you direct FERC to consider upstream impacts
and downstream impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions?
Mr. Binz. Senator, if I'm confirmed to the FERC that is not
something which I would put on my agenda.
I want to reply to something else you said just prior to
that. The notion that I will somehow allow my guess as to what
the future is going to look like, again, not a FERC position,
to affect the approval of natural gas pipelines, LNG
facilities. That is wrong.
These facilities are needed today. These are facilities
that are going to be built today. The LNG export facilities,
the gentlemen in Louisiana have contracts with Puerto Rico and
Africa and lots of other places to deliver gas.
I absolutely support that.
It will be up to the industry in total to decide what we do
on a carbon basis going forward. This is not a FERC decision.
So my, if I'm confirmed to the FERC, my jurisdiction or my
authority will be to evaluate proposals brought to us on the
basis of the merits of those proposals. It will not be to
substitute my judgment for anyone else's judgment about whether
these pipelines will be used 25 years from now.
Senator Barrasso. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Barrasso.
Senator Heinrich. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Commissioner Connor, I want to start with you. You will
have my unreserved support, but I'd be remiss if I didn't ask
you a question while I've got you. I certainly appreciate that
an engineer may be holding this position in the future. I won't
hold your law degree against you in that regard.
Senator Heinrich. But one of the things I've been impressed
with during your tenure at the Bureau of Reclamation is your
willingness to look at innovative and out of the box ways of
balancing the different things we need to do with our rivers
and waterways, balancing fish and wildlife while still
delivering water supplies to irrigators and municipalities,
other water users that create jobs in our communities. One of
the tools that I've seen used in a number of States to do that
has been water leasing to allow farmers or other water users to
voluntarily lease their water to provide more flexibility for
all river water users.
In New Mexico, given the rains of the last week, we may or
may not be coming out of a historic drought. We've certainly
had historic rainfalls. I'm not ready to declare victory yet
given how low our reservoirs are, as you well know.
But even in historic normal years which we haven't had for
some time, our water resources tend to be stretched very thin.
In your experience what role can water leasing play to make
sure that farmers, cities and other water users have that
flexibility while, you know, keeping some water in the river as
Mr. Connor. Thank you, Senator Heinrich for your support
and thank you for the question.
Water leasing is absolutely one of those critical tools for
addressing the challenges that we have in front of us with
respect to water resources in the West. Given the water laws
that exist and the priority of water rights, water in the West
is filled with winners and losers, those who will continue to
get their supply in times of shortage and others who will be
short. So facilitating the movement of that water between users
and also making it available for environmental purposes to
address our responsibilities, I think improves the situation
for all water users.
One of the things that I've tried to stress in my tenure at
the Bureau of Reclamation is that to keep, maintain certainty
and reliability as best possible with respect to water use and
power generation requires that us to comply with and deal with
the Federal environmental laws. That's a good thing. It's the
right thing to do plus it improves the situation from a water
We're doing that in the Rio Grande. We're, I think, we're
working with the Rio Grande Conservancy District, not only in
their operations so that they'll move water at times it
benefits species, but also now we anticipate getting a pilot
project underway in 2014 to begin water leasing activity within
the Rio Grande.
Senator Heinrich. Great. I appreciate that.
I also want to say I appreciate the work that you're doing
on general water efficiency. It's, you know, the one place
where we can create new white water. It's--those efforts are
very much appreciated in an arid State like New Mexico.
Dr. Robinson, I want to ask you a question or 2 with my
remaining time, probably just have time for one. But I wanted
to bring up Los Alamos National Lab cleanup. In 2013 the CR
left the clean up legacy waste at Los Alamos short of funding,
certainly short of what the President had requested.
I was very pleased that DOE's environmental management
program was actually able to identify $40 million this year to
keep that work on schedule. As a result the removal of 37
hundred cubic meters of transuranic waste stored above ground
remains on schedule to be completed in June. So we may be
facing a similar situation this year.
I certainly want to work with you to make sure that DOE
continues to meet its commitments to the State of New Mexico.
Just wanted to get your thoughts on that and your willingness
to work on those issues because we have a situation at Los
Alamos where not only has a commitment been made to the State
of New Mexico, but we also have ongoing issues with wildfire.
The sooner we can move all of that above ground waste to
someplace where we can all agree it's much more appropriate,
the better folks back home will sleep at night.
So I would like to get your thoughts on that.
Mr. Robinson. Thank you for the question, Senator.
I'm aware of the situation of the waste at Los Alamos and
the importance of removing it and safely storing it. I'm not
intimately familiar with the funding and the challenges that it
will face. But if I am confirmed, when I get to the department,
it will certainly be a priority to resolve those funding
situations and keep that project on track.
Senator Heinrich. We look forward to working with you on
the funding situation. I look forward to inviting you to come
to New Mexico in particular to see the waste isolation pilot
plant which is not unrelated to the issue, obviously.
Appreciate your time.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman for the time.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Heinrich.
Senator Flake. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank all of you
for coming. I appreciate Mr. Connor coming to my office, also
Mr. Binz, enjoyed that discussion.
Mr. Binz, following up on what Senator Barrasso was asking
with regard to the statement the dead end fuel in 2035. You
mentioned earlier in your testimony that you were concerned
that the FERC isn't concerned about markets or fuels only about
reliability. Is that accurate?
Mr. Binz. Customer rates. There's several other things. But
we do--the FERC does not take a position on fuel, Senator.
Senator Flake. But with regard to reliability if it's your
position and you restated that you believe that that is the
case that unless we have new technology with regard to
sequestration and carbon capture that it is a dead end fuel
then wouldn't that compel you, in terms of reliability,
wouldn't that affect your decisionmaking today on permitting
for natural gas, transport and facilities?
Mr. Binz. No, Senator, I actually don't see that
As I said, the short term is different than the long term
here. When we receive at the FERC, if I'm confirmed at the
FERC, when we would receive an application for a pipeline it
will be judged on the merits of that pipeline. The applicant
will have come forward with that. I would assume that if the
applicant thinks that this pipeline--that the use of gas is not
going to go past 2035 say, that that would be reflected in the
application to us.
So I actually don't see that.
In terms of reliability we face these questions
continuously every time the EPA issues a rule it will be up to
this agency to assess the impact of the EPA rules on
So again, I admitted that that was a relatively in-artful
of saying it. The full statement is if we're on a course to
decarbonize the electric sector then you have a problem with
1,000 pounds per megawatt hour emissions at about 2035. I'm
just really reporting in that statement what's being said by a
lot of other entities including the Electric Power Research
We might well not reduce carbon. I mean, that's not a
policy called at the FERC is responsible for. If you accept
that then the arithmetic drives you to the conclusion that I
Senator Flake. In your conversation with Senator Alexander
a minute ago you mentioned that you weren't sure if the
renewable fuel standard, nationally, increases costs. That
seems rather plain if it didn't there would be no need for a
renewable fuel standard. Of course it raises costs.
That just surprises me that--I mean you acknowledge that
and you may make the case that it's worth the cost. The cost
benefit analysis in terms of the environment or whatever else
outweighs it. But to say that you're not sure if a renewable
fuel standard raises costs. It does.
Wouldn't you agree?
Mr. Binz. Senator, I could have answered more fully by
saying I have not studied that. I can tell you that in Colorado
the renewable portfolio standard of 30 percent has raised
customer rates less than 2 percent. Now that's a short run
measure. It may well, in the longer run, be lowering of costs.
At this point, with the economics of wind, when wind is
added to the system in Colorado, costs go down. So I think it's
really--I've done a couple studies of this for Colorado. But I
haven't studied the national one. It would vary by region.
There's all kinds of things that need to be said.
So while I'll agree with you that the thrust would be to
pay more. It depends on the timeframe you're talking about and
absolutely the regional differences.
Senator Flake. Thank you.
Mr. Connor, we spoke when you came to my office with regard
to the Mexican wolf. The Fish and Wildlife Service has
announced 2 proposed rulemakings.
First, the Grey Wolf will be delisted.
But the Mexican Wolf will continue. There's been a decision
to expand the area and that significantly, as we talked about,
affects Arizona. I mean significantly in the rural areas.
Yet, with regard to this proposed new rule Fish and
Wildlife Service has said they're only going to hold hearings
in Sacramento, Washington, DC and Albuquerque, completely
leaving Arizona out. I can tell you that there are a lot of
people impacted, property issues, safety issues, by this
ruling. Will you commit to having a public hearing in Arizona
in the affected areas?
Mr. Connor. We are actively considering the request. The
door is closed to having an additional public hearing in
Arizona. We're working through that issue with your staff. I
expect we'll follow up very quickly.
Senator Flake. OK. I just have to say that I will have a
hard time, as much as I, I mean, you worked wonderfully with
our office, with my predecessor's office. Your knowledge on
water issues and a whole host of issues facing Interior are
broad and deep.
But this is an extremely important issue for Arizona. I
just cannot imagine the Fish and Wildlife Service would go
ahead with a proposed rulemaking without having a hearing, a
public hearing, in Arizona where it's affected like no other
place. To have one in Sacramento? Or in Washington, DC? But not
Arizona where it's affected.
So I look forward to working with you on this. Like I said,
I'll have a hard time supporting moving forward unless we can
get this resolved.
Mr. Connor. Understood. I'll follow up with you, Senator.
Senator Flake. Thank you. Appreciate it.
The Chairman. Senator Johnson is next.
Because Senators have been coming in and out and may have
missed the outline I gave of FERC's authority, what it can and
can't do. Again, on the national Renewable Energy Standard
which has come up several times, Mr. Binz would have absolutely
no authority to do anything on this matter unless the Congress
were to pass it and enact it into law.
Senator Johnson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Congratulations
to the entire panel on your nominations.
Mr. Connor, we have discussed rural water projects like the
Lewis and Clark regional water system on numerous occasions in
this committee. If confirmed to this new position do you
foresee being able to raise the priority placed on rural water
projects within the Department of the Interior's budget? Should
the overall allocations to the agencies be revised to better
meet those needs, given that water settlements are taking up an
increasing portion of BOR's budget?
Mr. Connor. Yes, Senator Johnson. I think if confirmed for
the position of Deputy Secretary I will be able to advocate on
a higher level for the rural water program that exists.
Part of the advocacy, as you mentioned, is the increasing
responsibilities we have in other areas and how that's creating
stresses within the rural water program. It's an important
program. I'll continue to be supportive.
Senator Johnson. Mr. Connor, I've been concerned about
possible closures of fish hatcheries, especially the D.C. Booth
Historic National Fish Hatchery in Spearfish, South Dakota.
While I, for one, would like to see a balanced approach to
replacing sequestration but that will be a challenge. How do
you plan to work with Congress to make sure we don't
permanently lose key Federal sites while navigating budget
Mr. Connor. Senator Johnson, as I understand it the long
term sustainability of funding for those hatcheries is an
issue. I can tell you that the best approach that we have at
the department right now is to buy us some more time to engage
with the Members of Congress, members of the Senate, on this
important issue. So at this point in time we have a short term
strategy to maintain funding for those facilities. But we do
absolutely need to work on a long term solution.
There's a variety of funding sources, as you know, for
those facilities. Some of them are in good shape, but others
Senator Johnson. Mr. Binz, expanding transmission has been
a big hurdle to wind energy development in the Dakotas. What
policy steps should we be taking to encourage transmission
lines, and what are your views on the allocation of costs for
building new transmission lines?
Mr. Binz. Thank you for the question, Senator.
I think you know that the FERC has undertaken an
initiative. It's known as Order 1000 which requires regions of
the country to self select as regions and then to adopt a
planning process for the construction of electric transmission
lines. As part of that to also adopt and report back on a cost
allocation agreement that they have.
So the FERC, in my view, with Order 1000 has understood the
necessity of expanding the transmission system but doing it in
a way so that costs are shared fairly.
The main principle in that requirement is that if costs are
shared they're shared only to those who benefit from the lines.
So my view on cost allocation is that if the regions can come
up with a self imposed system which meets the rule that if you
don't benefit, you don't pay. I am inclined, if I'm confirmed
to the FERC, I would be inclined to agree to that system of
Now what's new about this is the emphasis that the FERC has
placed on the regional planning. It's begun to happen
naturally. But I think Order 1000 will spur along more
I haven't spoken with the utility serving South Dakota
about this. I'll be happy to go further and find out what the
special issues there are.
The last thing I would say, Senator, is there has been a
growth in what is called independent transmission company
operations. We've got new companies. Clean Line Power is a good
example of it, which are building merchant lines to bring
energy across regions such as from South and North Dakota into
So the FERC's policies as to how independent transmission
companies are regulated and are treating is very important to
this. I've educated myself on these issues. I've spoken to many
developers of merchant transmission projects. I think I
understand what is necessary to ensure that they have a healthy
Senator Johnson. My time is expired.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Johnson.
Senator Risch is next.
Senator Risch. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Connor, thank you for coming to see me in my office.
Senator Bingaman pointed out that you have a degree in
engineering and admitted the fact that we don't have many
engineers in the political process. I've discovered why
actually. I used to recruit candidates for our local
When I talked to engineers they were shocked to hear that 2
plus 2 does not necessarily equal 4 in this business. So as a
result of that they're not inclined to participate. So thank
you for your participation.
I explained to you when we had lively discussion about the
Sage Grouse issue in Idaho. I understand your commitment to the
collaborative process. Again, I would encourage you to follow
through on what the previous Secretary of Interior had invited
the States to do and embrace, hopefully with glee, Idaho's plan
that we have put together on a collaborative process.
It's a robust plan to save the Sage Grouse. As you know
there are some issues within your Department that you and I
talked about between a couple of different agencies. We would
sincerely hope that in your senior management position you'd be
able to straighten that out.
Have you had any chance to look into that any further since
Mr. Connor. Yes, absolutely. I've become even better
informed on the Sage Grouse planning process. I very much
appreciated our discussion. I think it was good context for
highlighting the opportunity that we have here.
We have an opportunity with Idaho which also we've engaged
with Wyoming and the other States to conserve the species.
Through that effort avoid the need for listing, have on the
ground conservation efforts that people are invested in,
believe in. Be able to conduct a lot of other business and
So this is--we are moving forward. We are incorporating,
the BLM is incorporating the Idaho plan into its EIS process.
That's a good first start to get to the place where I think
both of us would like to be at the end of the day. I commit to
you this is a very high priority, these plans, developing in
the timeframe and avoiding the need for listing the species so
that we can maintain our other multiple uses knowing that we're
going to conserve the Sage Grouse is highly important.
Senator Risch. Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Our
Governor has been the lead on this in Idaho, has done a great
job. We enthusiastically embrace it for a lot of different
reasons. But not the least of which is and the primary
objective is to conserve the species and see that it does have
a sustainable future in Idaho. So thank you very much.
Dr. Robinson, you and I had a good discussion about the
Idaho National Laboratory. I want to stress to you again about
the cleanup project out there and how important it is to get
that done. If we can get that done it's certainly a great win
for the Department of Energy.
We're moving along in that direction. We hope you will
continue to embrace that as an objective that's doable and that
you can claim a victory on.
I would encourage you since Idaho is the lead laboratory in
the United States on nuclear energy to visit the laboratory.
One--for a couple of different reasons.
No. 1, the work that's there is--that they do there is just
But secondly, we do have a waste legacy that has been
troublesome since the end of the cold war. We've resolved it to
a degree through the Idaho Settlement Agreement. We have a
project there called the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant
which has been processing the waste and has been very
I think that what's been done there with that plant may be
very useful to the Department as you move forward in the future
on some of these other cleanups. We hope that you would visit
this--visit the Idaho Laboratory. We could have some
discussions about how that may be helpful in the future.
So thank you for taking on this job. Look forward to
working with you, particularly through the INL.
Mr. Robinson. Right, thank you.
Definitely I would love to go visit INL in Idaho and work
with you on those issues because it could be a great win for
the Department to finish up and to build on the successes that
have already happened in terms of cleaning up there.
Senator Risch. It will certainly add to the credibility of
the Department if you can complete it as scheduled.
So, Mr. Binz, thank you for coming to see me. You and I had
a good discussion on a lot of subjects. I know this didn't
happen on while you were at the FERC but again I want to stress
to you my deep, deep disappointment in the lawsuit that's going
on between the Idaho Public Utility Commission since they were
sued by the FERC.
I think that is a dangerous, dangerous precedent. It was
wrong. You told me, although you couldn't comment specifically
on it, some thoughts that you had in that regard. I appreciate
With that my time is up. I thank you very much, Mr.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Risch.
We've got several Senators missing so Senator Baldwin, you
Senator Baldwin. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank
all 3 of our witnesses for their public service in the past, in
the future and congratulations on the nominations.
I want to start with Mr. Connor. You and I had a chance to
visit last week. I very much appreciated our conversation.
I want to focus my question on a concern I raised with you
last week with regard to a property in Wisconsin that we refer
to as the Badger Army Ammunition Plant. During World War II it
was actually the largest munitions plant in the world. It is
located adjacent to Baraboo, Wisconsin.
When it was declared surplus to the Defense Department's
need, the community and stakeholders in the surrounding area
engaged in a very productive consensus process to look at
reusing the property for conservation, prairie and savannah
restoration, agriculture, educational and recreational uses.
During the process that goes on when Federal land is declared
surplus with the GSA there was involvement by the Department of
the Interior on behalf of 2 entities that hoped to secure a
part of this land and manage it in the spirit that I was
describing. The State Department of Natural Resources was
interacting with the National Park Service and the Ho-Chunk
Nation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
What I expressed to you last week was a strong, strong
concern about both the timeliness consideration of these land
transfers and additionally what appears to be a very
inconsistent application of an environmental evaluation that's
supposed to be uniform across the department, but appears to be
applied very differently in the National Park Service and the
BIA. Now I worked on this issue when I served in the House of
Representatives and had been in long dialog with folks in each
division. When you look at the organizational chart of the
Department of the Interior and the 5 Assistant Secretaries,
there's one person who's going to be on top of all of them and
that's the Deputy Secretary.
So in this forum, Mr. Connor, I would like to ask for your
assurances that the timeliness and the consistent application
of environmental standards would be a huge priority for you and
any comments that you might have on this issue since we spoke
Mr. Connor. Senator Baldwin, thank you very much. I
appreciated the discussion we had this week. I did have an
opportunity to go back and look into the matter.
As a threshold added to your question, if confirmed I will
definitely be committed to the assuring that we look at these
situations in the same way across the Department. I believe
that we do have some additional Regulatory requirements that
BIA has as part of this process. But having said that, we are
working now more expeditiously than before as a result of the
conversation that we had to try and work through an agreement
that needs to take place with the BIA so that we can get this
So it's a work in progress right now. We will continue to
prioritize this amongst our efforts. I will continue to work
with you on this and keep your office informed.
Senator Baldwin. I appreciate the assurances. I would state
that we understand first of all the timeliness aspect that BIA
has had this before them for over 10 years.
Mr. Connor. Yes.
Senator Baldwin. Second, that time really is running out,
as we understand. So this focus is extremely important.
Thank you for your response to that.
In my few seconds remaining I wanted to ask Mr. Binz about
the role of FERC in protecting consumers from energy market
manipulation and how you intend to build on FERC's recent
efforts to protect consumers in that regard.
Mr. Binz. Thank you, Senator Baldwin.
As you know I was the Consumer Advocate for Colorado for 12
years in which I fought for consumer rights, for lower consumer
rates in Colorado. So I kind of come naturally to this position
with respect to enforcing transparency and fairness in electric
markets. For two-thirds to three-quarters of the country we
have turned the job of setting electricity prices over to a
We owe it to the Nation's consumers to make sure that those
markets function well. That they produce the lowest possible
cost consistent with reliability. That financial players are
not able to manipulate prices and make extra profits that way.
So I fully support the work the FERC has been doing. I
intend to help keep the reputation, if I'm confirmed to the
FERC, I intend to keep the reputation of the tough cop on the
beat to make sure that these markets are fair.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Baldwin.
Next is Senator Portman.
Senator Portman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate you
and the ranking member working with us on this energy
efficiency bill. We'll be back on the Floor on that this
But meanwhile I do have a couple questions here.
One, with regard to Beth Robinson, I have a bias here, Mr.
Chairman. In my role at OMB I worked with Beth closely. She was
the Assistant Director for Budget at OMB which is the top
career post at the Office of Management and Budget.
She was a consummate professional, never pulled her punches
which is sometimes tough as the Director. But she was a very
effective manager of an extremely complicated process. So I've
seen her in action. She's also a hard worker. I'm delighted
that she is being nominated for this important position.
Having said that, I'm going to ask her a couple tough
One is with regard to the cleanup at the Portsmouth Gaseous
Diffusion Plant. As you know this is in Piketon, Ohio. There
was a commitment by DOE to finalize its plans in 2012 that
hasn't been done.
So if confirmed I would ask your help in assuring that the
building demolition and waste disposal plans are finalized as
soon as possible. This is 2 thousand workers in Ohio overseeing
the, again, decontamination, decommissioning of a gaseous
diffusion plant that's no longer in operation. If confirmed,
would you be willing to work with us on that?
Mr. Robinson. Certainly, Senator. Very important issue.
Senator Portman. Second big issue for us, of course, is how
to pay for it.
My strong belief is that if we can continue this cleanup
pace and even expedite it we will not only be able to have a
safer environment in the Piketon area, but also it will cost
the taxpayer less. You know, the sooner we do it, the better.
We can save actually substantial taxpayer funding if we keep
Unfortunately the President's budget keeps cutting it. Last
year I expressed this concern to Secretary Chu. The
Administration budget had a 33 percent cut to clean it up.
The way we've been able to keep this project moving is
through this barter program with uranium. To his credit,
Secretary Chu did follow through after my request and did
increase the barters for the Piketon plant from about 1600 to
about 2400 metric tons per year. He also ordered an independent
study of the market impact of that.
That study demonstrated the barter program does not have an
adverse material impact on domestic uranium mining conversion
and enrichment industries. It's a relatively small part, about
10 percent of annual domestic fuel requirements. This year that
program will generate about $200 million bucks in funding.
My question for you is whether you'd be willing to commit
today to work with us to support that uranium barter program to
ensure that this cleanup program that's going to be under your
aegis can continue.
Mr. Robinson. Yes, most definitely.
Senator Portman. We are very interested in working with you
on that. We want to ensure those jobs are retained in Ohio and
also that the environment is cleaner and that the taxpayers in
the end save money by having this cleanup proceed.
Mr. Binz, I was here for some of your earlier testimony. I
will tell you Ohio is experiencing the benefits of natural gas,
wet gas, oil production as you know through hydraulic fracking.
I do have serious concerns about your views on some of your
past statements on natural gas.
You indicated in one of your earlier statements an
interest, as you said, you were not speaking for yourself
necessarily. You said there's an interest in decarbonizing the
electrical grid. We don't view it that way in Ohio.
We like the fact that natural gas is available and
relatively stable low cost. That's going to help us to attract
business, particularly manufacturing, back to our State. So I
do have concerns about that.
I also wanted to ask you quickly, if I could, about
regulations. You know, I think you're going to hear about the
XL pipeline in a moment, Keystone. I won't mention that
specifically, but we have a real problem in this country with
permitting and specifically with regard to energy permitting.
We're told sometimes there is up to 34 different permits
required and these are Federal permits that uncertainty makes
investments more difficult. We're now ranked 17th in the world
by the IMF, the World Bank, on the time it takes to get a
permit. That's not a good ranking. It's moving capital and
So we think the overlapping agency authority, excessive
litigation, agencies are not prioritizing, ill meaningful
deadlines is all part of that. Therefore we have a legislation
we've introduced with Senator McCaskill, myself, Senator
Donnelly, Senator Barrasso, who is on this committee, Senator
Enzi and others, to speed up the permitting process. We have
better coordination, enhanced transparency, reduced new
I would just ask you today how you feel about this issue
generally. I don't expect you to know the legislation in
detail. But do you agree with us that permitting is a problem?
What do you expect to do with that, should you be confirmed?
Mr. Binz. Thank you, Senator Portman.
I do agree that we need to speed up the permitting process
for natural gas pipelines. I've had many meetings with many
segments of this industry. I've been consistent about this with
As a regulator I have no room for agency which merely slows
down applications because it's a large bureaucracy. I think we
really need to move those out quickly.
On one discussion I had, in particular, was with a CEO of a
company who said, you know, what I really need is an answer,
even if it's no. That's better than you just sitting there and
not giving me any action at all.
I'm very sympathetic to that. You will see from my record
in Colorado that I ran an agency which was proud of the fact
that it processed applications as quickly as possible. So, yes
I will commit.
I'm not familiar with the legislation referred to. I would
be happy to look at it and speak with you further about that.
But my sentiment is the same as yours.
I think we need more investment in pipeline infrastructure
in this case for a lot of different reasons. They've been
adding up over the years. It's now to the point we really need
to move on this. I welcome the opportunity to working with you
Senator Portman. My time is expired. But we will certainly
send you--announce this at legislation. But also would love to
talk to you about the whole issue of independent agencies and
cost benefit analysis on your rulemaking and get your views on
I'll follow up with questions on that in writing.
Senator Portman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. Senator Portman, thank you.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for
having this hearing.
I, too, would like to congratulate you Dr. Robinson on your
nomination. Thank you for all your hard work, we're proud of
you with your Northwest background. I don't know if that's what
you were referring to about your special interest in waste
cleanup, but we certainly appreciate someone with a Northwest
perspective bringing that urgency and attention to DOE.
I wanted to ask you about that, about reducing the
footprint at Hanford, which is a big part of what is trying to
be done at this point in time. A commitment to look at the
separation of civilian and military waste is one idea.
I'm looking to see whether you will commit to working with
Secretary Moniz , looking at that as an issue of making sure
the waste-once it's cleaned up at Hanford, and processed at the
vit plant-is able to be moved out. Because as it stands right
now, we don't have a plan, when that vitrification actually
happens, or a destination for that processed material.
Mr. Robinson. Yes, the issues at Hanford are very complex
and very important. As you mentioned I grew up in Seattle which
The Chairman. She went to school in Portland.
Senator Cantwell. We think of Reed College as a regional
Senator Cantwell. That just happens to be on the other side
of Columbia. OK?
Mr. Robinson. Certainly if I'm confirmed I'm deeply
committed to working out the issues at Hanford, both short and
long term and reducing the footprint and working with Secretary
Moniz on the long term disposition of the waste will be a top
Senator Cantwell. One of these ideas that has come up in a
recent commission-that we had and was participated in with our
past chairman, Senator Domenici--one of the issues they looked
at was the fact that when you're trying to answer all of these
questions as it relates to commercial waste, it adds an
additional layer and burden. But if you would separate the
military waste, we might get an answer for what to do with the
Hanford waste in a much more rapid fashion.
So Secretary Moniz is working on that issue, and the
Commission said it should be looked at. We want to see that
given focus too.
Mr. Robinson. Yes, I agree. Secretary Moniz is, being a
member of the Commission you're referring to, the Blue Ribbon
Senator Cantwell. Yes.
Mr. Robinson. Is very well positioned to move this issue
forward. I look forward to supporting him on that.
Senator Cantwell. Just a cautionary note, I think, since I
have been involved in energy issues at Hanford, I think every
Secretary and every person that comes in looks at the amount of
money that we're spending on cleanup always suggests something
that they think will be a short cut. It ends up not being a
short cut and we end up spending more money. So I would just
hope you would look at the history of that and the challenges.
Mr. Connor, thank you for your interest in the Yakima Basin
water project. I'm hoping that's something that you will
continue to support as Deputy Secretary of the Department of
Mr. Connor. Absolutely, Senator. It's a great collaborative
program with all the different stakeholders who put together a
good plan. It's a long term effort and we recognize that. But
we intend, at the Department of the Interior in all of our
different areas to keep working with those folks in
implementing that plan.
Senator Cantwell. It has--as you know, we've had 2
droughts, and that's cost us something like $335 million in
economic damage. So I'm hoping that you will work with us on
finding a funding source as well.
Mr. Connor. Yes, Senator.
Senator Cantwell. Great.
Mr. Connor. Happy to do that.
Senator Cantwell. Great.
Mr. Binz, thank you for your willingness to serve. I'm very
excited about your nomination. But I wanted to be--I wanted to
ask you if you will uphold the Power Act as it is written,
including just and reasonable rates and its anti-manipulation
authority that was given to the Commission?
Mr. Binz. Yes, Senator, I will.
I think that that's the primary goal of the Commission is
to protect consumers, to ensure that rates are just reasonable
and to the extent we have devolved that determination to
marketplaces. We need to ensure that those markets are fair.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you.
I guess to me, Mr. Chairman, that's the crux of this
nomination in this question. It's kind of like my time I spent
on the Judiciary Committee. It really didn't matter to me what
the personal opinion of judges were. It's whether they are
going to uphold the law and the statute.
In this case, my main interest in Mr. Binz is whether he's
going to uphold the Power Act and just and reasonable rates. I
am a little worried that some of my colleagues might hold up
your nomination and leave the FERC at the end of the year with
a 2-2 person board, and somehow stymie the overall functions
and responsibilities. So I hope that that won't happen because
the FERC has many things to carry out.
Certainly this area of market manipulation has played a key
role in trying to keep energy markets from being out of whack--
and certainly impacts everybody from consumers to businesses
that depend on those affordable energy rates. So I hope that we
can make progress in getting a full FERC and in preserving, as
I said, the Power Act, which is the crux of the responsibility
The Chairman. The Senator from Washington, as usual, makes
important points. No one has done more on this market
manipulation front to set in place new efforts to fight it than
the Senator from Washington. I appreciate your comments.
Mr. Binz. Senator, if I could just add to--not only is it
customers and businesses who rely on the Power Act, it's
competitors in those marketplaces who are harmed by this. We
need a vibrant industry competing to sell electricity and to
the extent manipulation hurts the other honest players in that
market we've done harm to.
Senator Cantwell. Thank you.
The Chairman. My gracious North Dakota host has arrived.
Welcome--oh, excuse me, Senator Scott has just arrived and the
order is Senator Scott first and then Senator Hoeven.
Senator Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just a couple
questions for Mr. Binz. A couple of questions on your direct
quotes concerning--let me just say the quotes.
``Utility regulation needs to shift from backward looking
focus on cost to forward looking emphasis on values and
How does this reconcile with your statements today where
regulations or regulators should not be able to push policy?
Mr. Binz. Senator, I was referring in the larger context of
that quote. I was referring to the way in which regulation is
done. In the United States we have oftentimes rate based rate
of return regulation. It is often criticized as not providing
appropriate incentives to the regulated companies. I think this
is highlighted especially in this era we have so many
So if you, again if you read the larger context, I was
talking there about new systems of regulation, loosely lumped
as performance based regulation or incentive regulation. I
think those are going to first of all, you do not give up the
concept of just and reasonable rates. You merely compensate
players in a different way depending upon their performance and
you give them business inducements to be efficient as firms.
It's a well understood theme in utility regulation. That's
what I was referring to.
Senator Scott. Alright, Mr. Binz.
Let me end with one of your other quotes. Hopefully we'll
see. Your comments of today seem to be more consistent with
where we should be going then your comments of last year and
most consistently with the last couple of years.
Your last quote that I found to be alarming was in short.
``Regulation must become a more legislative as opposed to
judicial process.'' That's what gave me reason to pause on the
first quote. But I'll go on to Mr. Connor.
Now that you've been bored sitting here so long today as
all the questions have gone to Mr. Binz. I wanted to make sure
that you were still awake and talk about some things that are
very important to the opportunities that we see in the Atlantic
There has been a 5 year plan. There seems to be the
continuation of the moratorium on not looking for new areas to
develop consistently looking for leases in those areas that
have already been explored and produced over the last decades.
My first question for you, sir, is what is your view of
expanding offshore oil and natural gas exploration into areas
that have not been explored in decades such as the Atlantic
That will be coupled with your question about will you
support allowing for the collection of seismic data in the
Mr. Connor. Thank you, Senator. I can assure you I am not
bored sitting here.
Senator Scott. I thought not.
Mr. Connor. With respect to moving toward development on
the Atlantic Offshore Outer Continental Shelf, I think the
process that the Department has underway right now which is to
finish its programmatic EIS by the end of this year or first
thing next year, in January and develop the process by which we
will conduct seismic testing in a way that better evaluates the
resource, updates our understanding of the resource and lays in
place the ability to look at how that resource can be
developed, what complications there exist.
We have environmental issues.
We have defense installation issues that we have to deal
I think the process that we have in place right now to
gather the information, to better understand how we'll develop
that resource will be best used and putting into the next 5
year plan. I think you'll see development on that Outer
So I think that process is one that I wholly support and
will continue to do so, if confirmed.
Senator Scott. OK.
So we're looking at the third delay. Now the findings will
come hopefully in the spring of 2014 it appears.
The next question is if a Governor of a State expresses
interest in allowing for offshore oil and natural gas
development off its coast as part of the next 5 year OCS plan
would you honor their request and schedule a lease sale?
Mr. Connor. To be frank, Senator, I think with respect to
the existing 5 year plan in place I don't see the process
allowing that to be revisited at this point in time to open up
areas that aren't currently contemplated in that 5 year plan.
But the process with development of this----
Senator Scott. With the 2017--I only have a couple minutes
left. So 27, the next 5 year plan you would be far more open to
Mr. Connor. That's what the programmatic EIS is all about,
to get information available to make those decisions and to
take the input from the State and local communities.
Senator Scott. So that would be a yes?
Mr. Connor. That would be a yes, I think. I anticipate that
that will be able to move forward.
Senator Scott. Based on the environmental impact study.
Mr. Connor. Based on the studies and the analysis being
done right now.
Senator Scott. As the Fish and Wildlife Service continue to
move forward with their critical habitat designation will you
pledge to work with me to possibly find an alternative to a
critical habitat designation and mitigate the economic and job
loss impact that such a designation will have on beach
communities in South Glen and other impacted States?
Mr. Connor. I'm happy to engage in that dialog or commit to
Senator Scott. Thank you.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Scott.
Senator Sanders. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank
you very much for all being here.
Although you may not see it reflected in this Congress the
scientific community is almost unanimous in agreeing that
global warming is real, that it is caused by human activity,
that it is already causing widespread destruction in our
country and around the world. If we don't transform our energy
system those problems will only become worse.
Now Chairman Wyden has appropriately lectured us on the
limits of what FERC is, that you're not here as President of
the United States or Secretary of Energy. But I did want to ask
you what you, Mr. Binz, see the role of FERC in expanding the
use of renewable energy.
Mr. Binz. Thank you, Senator Sanders.
As I've said before, perhaps not very clearly, I think
FERC's role is to ensure that whatever energy fuel future this
country finds itself in we have prepared the infrastructure to
allow that. Now it's kind of a--I'm painting the negative side
of the sketch here in the following way. The future energy mix
in this country will be driven by lots of things, almost none
of which have to do with the FERC.
It will have to do with, as you just announced, the degree
to which public, excuse me, the laws reflect a move toward the
lower carbon or renewable resources. We don't know where
that's--I don't know where that's going to come out. The amount
of natural gas seems to be almost unlimited. We're going to
continue to use more and more natural gas. Personally I support
But as a FERC Commissioner our job is to be responsive to
what the industry needs to connect these resources. So it is
not to promote any particular resource.
Senator Sanders. Just on that point let me ask you this. A
grid that moves distributed energy like solar or wind has
different challenges than a grid that is moving nuclear or
coal. So what is within the jurisdiction of FERC is what steps
do you think can be taken to improve grid resilience, grid
efficiency and the integration of renewable energy?
If you are appointed to serve as a FERC Commissioner what
steps will you take to modernize the grid in those ways?
Mr. Binz. Thank you, Senator.
As I've said several times, I'll say it slightly
differently. I think the agency's duty is to promote the
appropriate infrastructure investments. Now that's not just a
passive process. It is mainly passive in the sense that we, at
the FERC, if I'm appointed to the FERC, we will receive
applications from businesses to build things.
But the FERC is also the forum in which the rules about how
all of this is done, how it's planned. That's what the Order
1000 is about. That's the important part that we shape, kind
of, the place that the debate happens.
But as to the exact outcomes, that's not the agency's role.
Senator Sanders. Alright.
Let me just say I think that as time goes on more and more
Americans and even Members of Congress will wake up to the
reality that we need to transform our energy system. That is a
lot harder to do than it is to talk about because the grid
plays an enormously important role. If you have millions of
homes that are generating electricity through small solar or
you have small wind turbines. The FERC will have to play a huge
role in making sure that electricity moves.
So I would hope very much, if you are confirmed, that you
will apply yourself to make sure that we can in fact make that
transition to renewable energy in a successful and efficient
I thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Sanders.
I just want to note the seriousness of this issue regarding
the NOAA finding of 400 parts per million. That ought to be a
wakeup call to all concerned. As we've indicated, Senator
Udall's question, that at the FERC Mr. Binz does not have
authority over those kinds of issues. I appreciate it.
Senator Hoeven. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Connor, thank you for coming by to visit with me. I
think you've heard our Chairman of the Energy Committee talk
about his recent visit to North Dakota to see our energy
producing efforts from a variety of sources. Appreciate it very
much, Mr. Chairman, thank you for coming.
Not too long ago the Secretary of Interior Jewell was out
in North Dakota for the same purpose. Not too long before that
the Ranking Member of this Energy Committee, Senator Murkowski,
was in North Dakota as well. Thank you, Senator Murkowski for
We appreciate it so much. The reason being is we're
producing a lot more energy from a lot of different sources. I
believe that if we truly have an energy policy where we empower
States the 50 States can all do different things, but great
things in terms of energy production using the latest, greatest
technology not only to produce more energy, but to do it with
good environmental stewardship and truly get our country to
energy security or energy independence.
But however you want to define it, but certainly no longer
relying on oil from the Middle East.
I also believe that we can work with our closest friend and
ally, Canada, in that endeavor to have North American energy
One of the things that BLM is working on right now is a
rule regarding hydraulic fracturing. Under that rule BLM allows
the States to take a lead. My question to you is will you come
to North Dakota and will you work with us on that rule
specifically in regard to a State's lead under the BLM rule?
Mr. Connor. Yes, Senator. I will do that.
Senator Hoeven. Let me give you an example. Right now one
of the things that we're working--one of our challenges is is
to reduce the amount of flaring in our State. We're producing
so much oil we have a problem building the gas gathering
systems rapidly enough to capture the gas.
Now we're working on this very aggressively. We intend to
capture that gas. Right now 20 percent of the wells are being
drilled on Indian lands, but they're producing 50 percent of
Twenty percent of the wells producing 50 percent of the
The reason is because we can't get permitting through
Interior fast enough to build the gas gathering systems.
Will you work with me on this challenge?
Mr. Connor. Yes, I will, Senator.
Senator Hoeven. Thank you.
Again, thanks for coming by to visit with me.
Dr. Robinson, first comment is Senator Portman says great
things about you. So that's a good sign. He was just here and
we visited a little bit.
How does the Department of Energy help with key
infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline?
We're producing more energy. We're working with Canada to
produce more energy. But there's a lot of misunderstanding
about the infrastructure needs and the impacts of the
infrastructure that we have to build in order to get energy to
How can the Department of Energy help with that kind of
need, the infrastructure need?
If you want to specifically mention Keystone, go ahead.
Mr. Robinson. Thank you for the question.
First I should say that as Under Secretary for Management
and Performance those issues won't be under my purview. But
working with Secretary Moniz, who I know is very supportive of
the use of all different types of fuel, that and bringing to
bear our management and our ability to, you know, accelerate
the decisions and other aspects of the Department, I hope to be
helpful. But at this point it's not quite under my purview.
So, but I will commit to be as helpful as possible.
Senator Hoeven. I understand that. But we can be energy
independent if we tackle some of these challenges and I talked
to Dr. Moniz. But I do understand that's not directly under
Thanks for being here today. I look forward to working with
Mr. Binz, thank you for coming by. You've gotten a lot of
questions in regard to FERC not being the fuel selector. So,
I've heard those comments. I'm not going to go down that trail
But I think it's very important in terms of, if we're going
to have all the above we can't just say all of the above. We
have to do all of the above. How do you--we're having a hard
time getting enough interstate transmission whether it's
electric or gas.
How are you going to break the log jam?
What 1, 2 or 3 things can you do to get it going?
We need infrastructure. How are you going to get it going?
Mr. Binz. Senator, I can think of the first 2. By the time
I get to the third when I will have thought of the third one.
The first one is to ensure that the agency is at optimum
performance itself. OK? There should be no slow down at the
FERC for any of these pipeline or transmission applications.
That's point No. 1.
Point No. 2 and you and I discussed this in your office. I
think that the gas system that we have in this country,
generally speaking, was designed for space conditioning and for
industrial use of gas. We now, we're in a new world.
We're in a new world where electricity generation is now
the top use of natural gas. That means that we have to have
some coordination between that gas and electric industry. The
electric industry needs to signal the gas industry for where
pipeline capacity is needed and what the long term look is.
Now that's a simple problem to state a complicated one to
solve. But I think as we go to it.
Third is I, and I was just alluding to this with Senator
Scott. I think we need to look at the way in which we regulate
these companies. There's a big debate right now at the FERC
about the appropriate ROE, return on equity. That's taking up a
lot of oxygen at the agency.
I think the better question is does the way in which we
regulate the companies who own and invest in these
infrastructure projects. Are we compensating them the right
way? Are we giving them the right incentives for investment?
That's what I've been writing about and thinking about for
the last 2 years since having left the Public Utilities
Commission in Colorado. So I don't know what it translates into
specifics yet. But that's an issue I would like to tackle. It
will have very direct implications for investment in both
transmission and gas pipelines.
Senator Hoeven. Thank you.
The Chairman. Thank you, Senator Hoeven.
I just want to note that not only do I share your view that
the States ought to have a wide berth with respect to energy
policy, but we asked Mr. Binz that question specifically, and
he indicated that he also shared that view.
I think some of the lessons that I really picked up in
North Dakota, particularly some of the innovative work that you
all want to do in the flaring area, really lays the foundation
for us to look at a win/win situation on natural gas where we
can keep it cheap and affordable and accessible. As we look at
things like new pipelines, we will probably pick up on some of
the ideas your geologist told me about in North Dakota where
the new pipelines will also emit less methane.
So I thank you for your contribution and for the visit.
Our next questioner, Senator Manchin of West Virginia.
Senator Manchin. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member
Murkowski, I want to thank you all for holding this hearing.
I've enjoyed hearing from all the witnesses today. But being
the 22nd questioner doesn't leave a lot left to question.
So I do have some statements to be made. I enjoyed Mr. Binz
coming by and meeting with me. We had a very, very good
My focus in the Senate and the vommittee has been on an all
in, an all of the above, energy policy which I just think you
heard my colleague Senator Hoeven speak about. Basically the
goal was to have energy independence, truly energy
independence. We see what's going on around the world, what
goes on and the sacrifices our country makes because of our
demand and our need for energy.
Mr. Binz's record, however, indicates that he strongly
favors renewables over other energy sources. I know that he has
spoken a lot to that, Mr. Binz. I appreciate your candor on
those--directly answering those.
But also there's a fact according to the Denver Post. You
spoke to this too. Is the record is favoring rising rates as
part of a new energy economy. I know that's been brought up.
Also while on the Colorado Public Utility Commission, Mr.
Binz, you supported the Clean Air and Clean Jobs Act which I
know has been talked about. But there's a cost of about a
billion dollars over the 7 years. The retired 6 coal fired
Just last week RiT operators were forced to cut power to
some customers in order to prevent a more widespread blackout.
Some groups have predicted that more shortages could occur as
the reliability is not maintained from the coal fired plants
that they have.
I've previously met with the FERC Commissioner Philip
Moeller, who said something like this. He said he is source
neutral, not reliability neutral. It looks to me like
discriminating against coal is hurting the reliability of our
We keep shutting down coal plants instead of working to
improve their efficiencies. I would hope and expect the FERC
Commissioners would favor reliability rather than favor any
particular source. That they would always keep in mind
affordability of electricity for hard working Americans and so
many retired people on fixed income, our retired seniors, most
importantly, who rely on FERC to keep their rates affordable.
However we may have some disagreements, as you know. I come
here ready to listen. I have listened all day long. We have
decisions to be made.
Coal provides more electricity than any other single source
in the United States today. There has nothing been beat up more
than coal. My little State of West Virginia has done the heavy
lifting for over 100 years and asked very little back. We're
getting the living crap beat out of us by this Administration,
my Administration being a Democrat.
They talk about a good all in policy. They talk about we
need clean coal technology. Not a penny has been toward that
because the money set aside nothing has happened.
Even by EIA's own estimation coal is going to be the
dominant factor of producing electricity for the next 30 to 40
years. That's a fact because there's nothing else to replace
the dependability, reliability and affordability. We do it
cleaner than anybody else in the world. We can do a lot better
if we had a government working with us as a partner.
So, Mr. Binz, you can see why there's a lot of concerns.
The FERC, if I can say this, in West Virginia every utility I
have always says that well FERC won't let them do this or FERC
regulates this. If you're regulating transmission you're
regulating basically you have input on where that transmission
is coming from.
We export most of our power. If we shut down our power
plants a lot of these coasts would go dark. They don't realize
that. They just beat the living daylights out of little West
Virginia. But they sure do like what we produce.
We're trying to do it in the best fashion.
We need some friends. We need some people that will just
look at it in a more level playing field. We haven't gotten
that, sir. That's why we're so skeptical and so concerned about
some of your past performances.
Nothing personal and I know you know that it's not personal
here, whatsoever. It's personal to us because of the jobs that
we have. The energy we produce. The heavy lifting we've done
for this country. There seems to be no appreciation whatsoever.
So on that I would ask, I guess, reliability verses cost.
If that would be--I know that's supposed to be your charge. But
would that be your directive because before there's questions
about that as you performed in Colorado?
Mr. Binz. Senator Manchin, if I may, 3 quick points.
First, in Colorado we remain 40 percent coal in our State.
I approved the largest coal plant that was ever built in
Colorado. I have, as I told you I believe in our meeting, I
have written papers supporting additional research for carbon
capture and sequestration because I would like to see a path
forward for coal.
Finally, I worked to get funding under the Recovery Act for
CCS demonstration project at altitude in the Western region. We
didn't get agreement among the players so no application was
filed. But I was in full support of that.
I think the question here is the balance. I believe that
what we did in Colorado is to increase the diversity and the
balance in the portfolio. But it was not an anti-coal move at
We were attempting to comply with what the legislature told
us to approve a plan which complied with future EPA
regulations. So we were looking at those future regulations. We
closed some old coal plants. But sir, we retrofitted some
existing coal plants and kept them. So they'll be running
another 25 to 30 years.
So I'm very sympathetic to what you're saying. I would like
to work with you to see if we can somehow move more attention
toward a path forward for coal. As I've said repeatedly, I
think eventually the same path forward will be necessary for
natural gas. It's delayed by a couple decades, but it's going
to be the same issue.
So I appreciate your comments. I very much enjoyed our
conversation in your office.
Senator Manchin. If I may continue? I appreciate the
Chairman Wellinghoff, who is the current Chairman, had
pushed demand response and energy efficiency. Truly that's why
I asked the question about reliability and cost. He is not
going in that direction.
I'm concerned that this is short sighted. I think because
when you match this with the coal plants that are retiring.
Every utility operator today has told me they are forced to
make fuel switching because of the uncertainty with the EPA and
the uncertainty with everything that's going on with this
Administration that it's cheaper to retire a coal plant. Even a
super critical coal plant in my area, would shut down a whole
economy of a region of Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia
because they didn't know what to expect later from the rules
Now we have a void.
What's happening right now? You've got a perfect storm
brewing. People don't really understand it.
If our economy ever came back, a demand for energy, we'd be
hurting. We would be hurting. We don't have the capacity on
You're taking the only affordable, reliable, dependable
power you have and they're scrubbing that because of an
idealistic approach they're taking which is not going to be
able to fuel this nation. You can't get that across. But just
last week in PJM which I think serves 55 million people. PJM is
the provider for transmission which totally is controlled by
Mr. Binz. Yes, sir.
Senator Manchin. PJM. Due to a heat wave they almost went
down with blackouts because of what they've retired
Mr. Binz. Senator, as I told you in my office I consider it
a very important duty of the FERC to speak truthfully and
directly to the EPA about the reliability impacts. It may not
be the FERC who does the research itself. I think that's best.
It comes from the regions.
But processing that information and conveying it to
authorities making decisions about plants and the potential
closure of plants is something which I think the FERC must do
to fulfill its role on reliability.
Senator Manchin. I appreciate you coming and speaking to me
directly. I do appreciate that. I'm considering everything we
spoke about. Everything I've heard today. I will take that
Thank you, sir.
The Chairman. I thank my friend from West Virginia.
Just for purposes of putting a wrap-up point on this
position and coal, you know, point on this position and coal.
As a Senator who knows these issues, we have tried to make
significant efforts to address the very legitimate concerns
that your constituencies are bringing up. I mean that's why for
the first time this committee now has a Mining Subcommittee
because I thought when I went to West Virginia and heard from
your folks that they deserved to have a bigger megaphone and a
Senator Manchin. Yes.
The Chairman. That's the way we're going to do it. We're
going to do it on a bipartisan basis, Senator Murkowski and I.
Just on this point with respect to discrimination against
coal, I'm going to highlight one aspect of it. We tried to lay
out-and my colleagues are kidding that they've heard the
lecture about what FERC can do and what FERC can't do. But the
most important point is that they cannot discriminate, they
cannot discriminate in any way with respect to imposing unjust
or unreasonable rates, or preferential charges on coal or coal
generated electricity. There cannot be back door taxes on coal
or coal-generated electricity.
Now, I know my good friend from West Virginia is going to
make darn sure that that requirement is carried out. I just
want, as we wrap up, to highlight that point because I'm going
to work very closely with my colleague from West Virginia.
We've talked about this a number of times. We're going to
continue the discussion.
Senator Manchin. Mr. Chairman, you've been more than fair
and Ranking Member Murkowski has been more than fair in trying
to understand what the State of West Virginia has done, what it
continues to do and what it wants to continue to contribute.
But we need a willing partner. We've not had that willing
partner, sir. You saw the frustration when you both were there.
We believe in all of the above. We have one of the largest
wind farms east of the Mississippi. No one would ever know that
in West Virginia, the coal producing State that we are, we have
17 miles of wind farm. We're trying to do everything we can
with what we've got.
The Chairman. I saw it.
Senator Manchin. Yes, you saw it. You were there.
The bottom line is is that basically I would maybe not
really disagree with what you've said about FERC. But FERC
does--can make decisions on is the power needed?
Is the transmission for that power available?
Is there a better place to have it?
If you tried to put policy ahead of reality they could
choose and if cost is not considered how that cost would be
They could choose an alternative source that could be much
higher in cost and lower reliability.
The Chairman. They cannot discriminate on the question of
charges. They are barred. They have no authority to impose
unjust or unreasonable rates.
No. 1, they cannot discriminate or in effect allow
preferential kinds of agreements that would disfavor your
I want you to know I am going to be vigilant about that
provision because if you don't enforce it, you get front and
center into something you and I totally agree on which is
shouldn't be picking winners and losers. So, I hear you.
Senator Manchin. Right.
You brought that to my attention. We're going to be looking
at that very closely and seeing how past practices of past FERC
members have done.
The Chairman. Fair enough.
Senator Manchin. How they ruled on that.
Thank you, sir.
The Chairman. Fair enough. This is a discussion that will
Two last points and Senator Murkowski and I have been
trying to figure out how to navigate the vote.
Mr. Connor, I'm sure you feel thoroughly neglected at this
point. I just want you to know on the Klamath Basin tissue,
because we're moving into the home stretch of trying to work
out what I think could be a historic agreement for a rural area
where you're trying to balance the water needs, we need to find
a way to provide lower cost power to both on and off-project
users working with Bonneville and Pacific Corp. We bumped up
against some road blocks.
I need you when you leave this afternoon by the end of the
day to be back on this case trying to see if we can advance
this. Will you help us with that?
Mr. Connor. Absolutely.
The Chairman. Alright.
You all have been very patient with respect to your time
Dr. Robinson, you I think have seen the strong bipartisan
interest in your work. It's certainly appreciated by me. I
think what it really highlights, and Mr. Binz, you've, sort of
been the focus of today.
But it highlights for me that all 3 of you are capable of
helping us get the win/win policies for the future that are
going to be consensus driven.
They're going to be market-oriented.
They're not going to discriminate against one choice or
They're going to be good for the country.
I've made it clear, Mr. Binz, that I think tapping the
potential of natural gas is a winner for this country. It's a
winner for consumers. It's a winner for businesses. It's 50
percent cleaner than other fossil fuels.
You've basically told me that you, too, believe it has
significant benefits for consumers and businesses and the
environment. You will work actively with us for those win/win
kinds of consensus driven approaches. Is that a fair
Mr. Binz. That is, Senator.
The Chairman. Alright.
The only other point I want to make, and it really touches
on something that several colleagues have talked about, with
all these public relations firms and special interest groups
involved. This is not where I think these debates ought to go.
Frankly, what Senator Murkowski and I have dedicated our
service in this committee to be all about is sort of ratcheting
this kind of stuff down.
Trying to lower the decibel level.
Trying to bring people together to find some common ground
on these kinds of solutions.
I think when we say that an outside interest group has a
right to oppose a nomination and they do. In fairness, an
outside group has a right to be able to offer the counter, you
I hope that we're going to see that this is an exception
and not the rule.
You all have been patient with us this morning. I'm going
to give the last words to my friend and colleague, Senator
Senator Murkowski. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Great participation by the committee today which I always
appreciate. But I also recognize that when more of our
colleagues show up there's less time for you and I to ask our
I think it's been noted that Dr. Robinson and Mr. Connor,
neither one of you fielded the questions to the level that Mr.
Binz did. I don't think it's because of lack of interest.
Mr. Connor, you and I had a lot of discussion about trust
obligation owed to our native peoples and your responsibilities
there, particular interest to me, of course, is what happens on
Alaska's lands. We have some issues that we need to resolve.
We've got some legacy wells that, quite honestly, have not been
given the priority that this Administration nor previous
Administrations need to give to that.
I'm going to be meeting with some Native leaders this week
to talk, not only about the ongoing situation with the legacy
wells, but those lands that have been conveyed to our Native
people that were affectively trashed, again, by the Federal
Government, by the military whether it's cold war or whenever
it was and the obligation that we have to basically clean up
the mess there. So that is something that we need commitment to
Dr. Robinson, I didn't have a chance to visit with you
personally. I do appreciate all that you have done. I will
raise one quick issue though. That is the--during your tenure
as CFO of NASA there was a situation where there were a series
of documents that were subpoenaed. Apparently there was failure
to reply to that. As a consequence in the FY2014 Appros bill
for NASA there is actually language that provides that NASA's
actions over the past several fiscal years imply that the
agency does not take the spending plan process seriously.
NASA has repeatedly attempted to use its plan to
circumvent, dilute or contradict policies. That concerns me, of
course. So I want to know that we do have assurances that you
will be responsive to the committee, certainly. That you will
faithfully carry out your legislative lead directed
responsibilities while at the Department of Energy.
But that language caught my eye. I wanted to make sure that
we weren't going to see any carryover certainly within your new
responsibilities at the Department of Energy.
Mr. Robinson. No, not at all. I pledge to carry out any
authorization and to be as forthcoming and transparent as
possible with the committee.
Senator Murkowski. Great. We certainly appreciate that.
Mr. Chairman I have suggested that because there is,
clearly, additional questions. I certainly have additional
questions that I want to have directed to Mr. Binz. So I would
ask that we be able to hold open until the close of business
this week opportunities for members to submit their questions
for the record. I would ask that----
The Chairman. Without objection that's very appropriate. I
think Senators do want to raise concerns. We will keep the
record open until the end of the week.
Senator Murkowski. I appreciate that, Mr. Chairman.
I would ask specifically to Mr. Binz on that. I don't know
why historically it has been an issue, but FERC has had not too
stellar track record when it comes to responding to formal
inquiries from this committee. We discussed it in my office. So
I would hope that we could get a quick response back.
Mr. Chairman, there's been a lot of discussion,
particularly around Mr. Binz's nomination. I think you can hear
the concern from members.
We want to make sure that the people that we work for that
as they have an opportunity to heat their homes, run their
businesses, that policies that are set don't shut down their
opportunities because the issue of cost is taken over by a
different direction. Whether it's societal outcomes or the
issues as they relate to reliability, the role of the FERC as
that independent agency tasked to ensure, you know, the
greatest opportunity here which is the consumer protection.
This is clearly, clearly a very critical role.
It needs to be--the roles and functions within the
Commission are such that they require a level of independence,
a level of judiciousness, a level of temperament and a level of
fairness, absolute fairness without question. So I appreciate
the opportunity that we've had today. I wish we had more time.
But I do think that, again, when we look to this Commission
and the responsibility that we hold the Commission and the
Commissioners and most specifically, the Chairman to, the
standards absolutely must be of the highest possible.
So Mr. Chairman, I have indicated the concerns that I have
with the nominee. At this point in time Mr. Binz, reluctantly I
don't think I'm going to be able to support your nomination as
we move through the committee. I say that reluctantly. But I
need to know, I need to have that absolute assurance that the
independents that I've spoken to and the fairness and the
judiciousness that I have spoken to is there. I have not yet
been convinced of that.
The process will move forward. I recognize that we need to
have a full Commission. But as of this point in time, I'm not
prepared to support your nomination.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I know we both have a vote to run
off to. They've been holding it for us. So I thank you for all
that you've given us and to the nominees here this morning.
The Chairman. Thank our nominees. committee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:30 p.m. the hearing was adjourned.]
Responses to Additional Questions
Responses of Elizabeth M. Robinson to Questions From Senator Wyden
Question 1. Cleanup.--Since 1990, the Government Accountability
Office has maintained a list of programs at ``high risk'' of waste,
fraud abuse, or mismanagement. From the beginning, GAO has listed DOE's
Environmental Management Program's contract management as ``high risk''
because of DOE's record of inadequate management and oversight of its
contractors. In recognition of significant progress, GAO removed EM's
smaller projects from the list, but has kept the larger Environmental
Management projects, such as the Waste Treatment Plant at Hanford, on
the list. What will you do to get Environmental Management off the
``high risk'' list?
Answer. I am aware that the Department has had several EM projects
on the GAO's high risk list, and that some of those projects have been
on the list for many years. I understand that the Department has put in
place reforms over the last several years, and as a result the GAO has
removed projects under $750 million from the high risk list. While
efforts continue at the Department to address these major project
management challenges, there is still much work to be done. If
confirmed as Under Secretary for Management and Performance, I plan to
get immediately involved in these issues, using my experience at NASA
and elsewhere, to keep progress moving forward.
Question 2. Cyber security.--The Department recently had a breach
of its unclassified payroll system that resulted in disclosure of
personal information on 53,000 current and former employees. The
Inspector General has identified security weaknesses in the
Department's unclassified information systems for years. What will you
do to improve cyber security and the security of the Department's
Answer. I am aware of a recent cyber attack that was perpetrated
against the Department, which resulted in the unauthorized disclosure
of Personally Identifiable Information (PII). As a long-time member of
the federal workforce, the security of our federal employee's personal
information is extremely important to me. If confirmed, I plan to learn
more about this incident and the Department's cyber security programs
and policies. I will work with the Chief Information Officer, who
reports to the Office of the Under Secretary for Management and
Performance to ensure DOE is doing what it can do to prevent these
types of incidents.
Question 3. Human resources. DOE was recently forced to rescind
Bonneville Power Administration's hiring authority because of
violations reported by both the Inspector General and the Office of
Personnel Management, including mishandling of veterans preference.
What will you do to fix the veterans preference problem at the
Bonneville Power Administration and to make sure that there aren't
similar problems in other parts of the Department of Energy?
Answer. I am aware of this issue, and have reviewed the Inspector
General Management Alert released in July. I am personally very
concerned by any allegations of hiring improprieties, and particularly
those disadvantaging armed service veterans. I understand the
Department is taking these allegations very seriously and will be
undertaking efforts to re-look at each case in question. I also
understand the Department and BPA have begun the process of priority
placement of eligible disadvantaged veterans. If confirmed, I will work
to take all ongoing appropriate actions to ensure that Headquarters and
Bonneville staff have the tools they need to lawfully and completely
carry out federal hiring rules.
Question 4. Small business.--The Department of Energy has the worst
record in government on small business contracts, primarily because so
much of the Department's work is done through large management and
operating contracts. NASA has faced similar problems. What will you do
to improve small business contracting at the Department?
Answer. We must harness small business innovation and talent if the
Department is to meet the President's ambitious energy goals. I am
aware of the Department's performance challenges regarding small
business contracting, and that a large amount of DOE's total funds does
go to small businesses, primarily through subcontracts. If confirmed, I
will look into identifying and implementing strategies toward
achievement of the Department's small business goals.
Question 5. The rules of the Senate require this and other
committees to review and study, on an ongoing basis, the performance of
agencies, the administration of existing laws, and the need for
additional legislation within the each committee's jurisdiction. The
effective performance of the Committee's legislative and oversight
functions requires a timely flow of information from the agencies under
its jurisdiction in response to its questions and document requests.
Unfortunately, the Department has not always responded as promptly as
it could to the Committee's needs. For example, the Department has yet
to respond to questions stemming from its hearing on nuclear waste
legislation last July. In addition, I am enclosing a letter from
Senator Markey identifying 7 unanswered requests. If confirmed, will
you ensure that our questions are promptly answered?
Answer. If confirmed, I can commit to responding to the best of my
Responses of Elizabeth M. Robinson to Questions From Senator Murkowski
Question 1. Cooperation with Congress----
a. If you are confirmed as Under Secretary, do you pledge to fully
and promptly cooperate with all requests for documents or other
information that you receive from the Senate Committee on Energy and
Natural Resources and any other congressional Committees with which you
Answer. If confirmed, I can commit to cooperating with the
Committee's requests in a timely manner to the best of my ability.
b. If you are confirmed as Under Secretary, do you pledge that your
decisions will strictly adhere to the statutes that Congress has passed
and the authorizations that Congress has provided to the Department of
Question 2. Environmental Management--Please describe your
technical knowledge of, and professional experience related to, the
portfolio of environmental management issues that you would be
responsible for at the Department of Energy, if confirmed.
Answer. Throughout my career, leveraging what I learned in pursuit
of my Ph.D. in geophysics, I have worked on energy issues, including as
an examiner at the Office of Management and Budget. I have also focused
on project management, most recently as the CFO at NASA. If confirmed,
these skills will enable me to hit the ground running on Environmental
Management issues, which I consider one of the greatest challenges I
will face. I plan to work closely with the head of the Environmental
Management program and technical staff at the Department on these
Question 3. Financial Management--A recent Washington Times article
asserted that its ``review of NASA inspector general reports finds the
space agency struggled to achieve austerity under [your] financial
leadership, as cost overruns grew sixfold from $50 million in 2009 to
$315 million in 2012.'' Do you have any comment about this story? How
do you explain NASA's apparent increasing cost overruns?
Answer. I believe it is our duty as public servants to work every
day to make the most effective and efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
NASA, like many agencies, has had a number of long-standing challenges
over its 50 year history, spanning more than one person or one
administration. I'm proud that during my time at NASA, the agency
received a clean audit for the first time in several years--and an
essential part of that effort was input we received from NASA's IG in
addition to GAO and Congress. I understand that the Department also
faces cost estimate issues and, if confirmed, I will work to improve
project management and cost estimate issues.
Question 4. Publications--Your nomination papers list a number of
publications that you have authored or coauthored. Please provide the
Committee with copies of the following:
4a. ``Preparing for an Uncertain Climate, October, 1993; U.S.
Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. Principal Analyst.''
Answer. Please find the report (vol 1) at: http://
www.princeton.edu/ ota/ns20/alpha__f.html And (vol 2): http://
Also, please note that I was employed as a Principal Analyst on the
project for its first year and was no longer ``Project Staff'' at the
time of its final publication.
4b. ``Chubin, D.E. and E.M. Robinson, Accounting for the Costs of
Research: Some Policy Rethinking, Science and Public Policy, vol 19,
#3, June 1992, pp. 181-186.
Answer. See attachment.*
* All attachments have been retained in committee files
4c. ``Robinson, E.M., Know thy Sponsor: Project Selection Methods
at Federal Research Agencies, BioScience, vol 41, #8, September 1991,
Answer. See attachment.*
4d. ``Chubin, D.E., E.M. Robinson, N. Carson and J. Andelin,
Research Priority Setting and the U.S. Congress, Science and Technology
Policy, August 1991, pp. 9-13.''
Answer. *See attachment.
4e. ``Federally Funded Research: Decisions for a Decade, May, 1991;
U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. Principal Analyst.''
Answer. Please find the report at:http://www.princeton.edu/ ota/
Question 5. Contracting--DOE's Inspector General recently described
oversight of contracting as the Department's ``weak underbelly''--and
improvements to that process will reportedly be one of the main aspects
of your job, if you are confirmed.
5a. How at NASA did you make sure that contracting operated
Answer. At NASA, I worked to make sure that contracting operated
smoothly in several ways. First, as the Chief Acquisition Officer, I
utilized my direct access to the Administrator to elevate issues of
concern to resolve them in a timely manner. Moreover, as a Member of
the Executive Council, Project Management Council and Mission Support
Council, I facilitated consideration of project- and contract-specific
issues at key decision points.
5b. What do you believe are DOE's current deficiencies with regard
Answer. I am aware DOE has very complex project management and
contracting challenges, and if confirmed, one of my first tasks will be
getting up to speed on these issues.
5c. From your overview at DOE so far, do you see any changes you
wish to make or anything that you think the Department can do better?
Answer. I believe that there are certainly challenges within the
Department on contracting issues; however, I do not believe those
challenges to be insurmountable. If confirmed, I plan to take an active
role in this area.
Responses of Elizabeth M. Robinson to Questions From Senator Cantwell
Question 1. Dr. Robinson, I think we can all agree that increasing
government contracting to small businesses is a worthy goal, and I'm
pleased to have fought over the years to both increase the number of
prime and subcontracts to small businesses.
I have a few concerns about how those increases are implemented,
though, and I'm hoping to learn more about your approach to small
As you know, the Small Business Administration works with the
Department of Energy to establish small business prime contracting
goals for each fiscal year. I believe that these goals should first do
no harm to existing small business subcontractors and be realistic in
scope and timeframe. As negotiations begin on the goals for next fiscal
year, will you commit to fully analyzing the impacts of these goals on
existing small business subcontractors and providing Secretary Moniz
and acting-Administrator Hulit with the full impacts?
Answer. I am aware of the Department's performance challenges
regarding small business contracting, and that a large amount of DOE's
total funds does go to small businesses, primarily through
subcontracts. If confirmed, I will certainly provide Secretary Moniz
and the SBA with an accurate, full picture of impacts to existing
contractors both prime and sub. If confirmed, I will also look into
identifying and implementing strategies toward achievement of the
Department's small business goals.
Question 2. As you know, the Department of Energy's prime
contractors already do a significant amount of subcontracting to small
businesses. In fact, more than a quarter of DOE's procurement dollars
in fiscal year 2012 were awarded to small businesses. If the Department
of Energy has to de-scope, re-structure, re-compete, and re-award
substantial work from these large prime contracts (in many cases, work
which was already being done by small business subcontractors), would
you expect the need for additional contracting officers and financial
resources to award, manage, and audit the larger number of prime
Answer. As I mentioned previously, I am aware of the Department's
performance challenges regarding small business contracting, and that a
large amount of DOE's total funds does go to small businesses,
primarily through subcontracts. If confirmed, I will look into the
issue you have raised.
Question 3. As we've discussed, the cleanup of the Hanford site in
the Tri-Cities, Washington is one of my top priorities for the
Department of Energy. Is there a risk of further delays to Hanford
cleanup if the Department of Energy substantially increases the number
of prime contractors too quickly, rather than allowing the existing
prime contractors to meet aggressive small business subcontracting
goals and slowly phasing in additional small business prime
Answer. I understand that the Hanford site is facing many
challenges, and it is important for the Department to address the
cleanup mission in a timely and safe manner. I appreciate the issue you
have raised, and if confirmed I will look into it.
Question 4. Placing Environmental Management under the Office of
Performance and Management could suggest that the DOE leadership
believes that the challenges in completing the clean-up of legacy
nuclear waste are strictly a matter of more sound and rigorous project
management. But the general consensus seems to be that many unresolved
technical questions remain, certainly around the Hanford Waste
Treatment Plant and the Tank Farms. DOE also stewards 17 national labs
that house many of the nation's top experts in tank waste chemistry,
radiological waste fate and transport in the subsurface, and turning
liquid waste into glass to name just a few. Do you see the EM
challenges as more than just better project management? How do you plan
to engage the national laboratories as strategic partners in dealing
with the many open technical questions not just at Hanford but across
the entire DOE complex?
Answer. Cleaning up our nation's nuclear waste legacy is an
important priority for the Department, and for me. Throughout the
Environmental Management complex, the Department faces significant and
serious challenges related to technical, project management, and other
causes. I understand that throughout the EM complex, the Department is
routinely engaging the national laboratories, including at Hanford, to
assist in resolving some of these issues. If confirmed, I will be
looking at how we can improve our efforts across the EM complex and
what tools the Department can bring to bear to resolve some of the most
challenging issues we face.
Question 5. The Department's National Laboratories have been
productive in their research with relatively limited investment in the
renewal of facilities and infrastructure that underpin their unique
scientific capabilities in addressing our nation's most pressing needs
in national security, science, and energy innovation. With the backlog
of necessary infrastructure investments, I am concerned about our
ability to maintain these assets. Will you consider new financing
strategies to find alternative funding sources or provide additional
financing options for the National Laboratories to meet these needs?
Answer. Yes. DOE's national laboratories are critically important
to energy, scientific discovery, and national security challenges
facing our nation and around the world. If confirmed, I intend to work
with our Departmental leadership to ensure that proper infrastructure
investments will be made for the national laboratories.
Response of Elizabeth M. Robinson to Question From Senator Barrasso
Question 1. During your confirmation hearing, you committed to
support DOE's ongoing uranium barter program for environmental cleanup
in Piketon, Ohio.
Section 3112(d) of the USEC Privatization Act (42 U.S.C. 2297h-
10(d)) states that the Secretary may sell or transfer natural or low-
enriched uranium from DOE stockpiles provided that:
the Secretary determines that the sale of the material will
not have an adverse material impact on the domestic uranium
mining, conversion, or enrichment industry, taking into account
the sales of uranium under the Russian HEU Agreement and the
Since May 12, 2012, the U.S. spot price of U3O8 has fallen about 33
percent. DOE's barter program has contributed to the collapse of U3O8
If confirmed, you would oversee the Office of Environmental
Management. What steps, if any, would you take to ensure that any
Secretarial Determination: (1) will not harm our domestic uranium
production, conversion, and enrichment industries; and (2) is in
compliance with Section 3112(d)?
Answer. If confirmed, I will ensure that any uranium transfers
comply with applicable statutory obligations. As part of that process,
I can commit to looking at implications for the uranium mining industry
of covered sales or transfers. I will work within the Department to
ensure that the Secretary has sufficient information to make a
determination to help ensure the strength of the domestic uranium
Responses of Elizabeth M. Robinson to Questions From Senator Schatz
Question 1. I applaud the DOE's reorganization and the emphasis the
Secretary has placed on performance and management. The federal
government has a responsibility to the cleanup of our nuclear weapons
research programs but equally important are the research and
development programs that will develop the technologies of tomorrow.
Ms. Robinson, how will your role help in balancing between these
two priorities and what are your plans for encouraging improved
coordination between the various program offices?
Answer. As you know, in July, Secretary Moniz and Deputy Secretary
Poneman announced plans for a reorganization of the Department's
management structure that is designed to achieve Department's key
priorities and those of the President.
If confirmed, I would serve in the role as Under Secretary for
Management and Performance, which elevates the importance of management
and performance across all Department missions. The Office of
Environmental Management and Legacy Management would also fall within
my portfolio and I intend to work diligently on challenges facing those
programs. I look forward to working with my counterparts the Under
Secretary for Science and Energy and Under Secretary for Nuclear
Security to ensure that program efforts are not only well coordinated,
but also well managed and high performing.
Question 2. With significant budget cuts due to the government-wide
sequester and the wave of federal employees slated for retirement, what
are your plans to ensure continuity of operations through the knowledge
drain that will occur from retirements?
Answer. Sequestration has created a situation where the Department,
like all federal agencies, has had to make difficult choices about its
priorities and future of programs. The knowledge drain from retirements
is an issue that, if confirmed, I will take seriously, to ensure that
the Department has the right staff to meet its missions into the
Responses of Michael L. Connor to Questions From Senator Wyden
Question 1. The rules of the Senate require this and other
committees to review and study, on an ongoing basis, the performance of
agencies, the administration of existing laws, and the need for
additional legislation within the each committee's jurisdiction. The
effective performance of the Committee's legislative and oversight
functions requires a timely flow of information from the agencies under
its jurisdiction in response to its questions and document requests.
Unfortunately, the Department has not always responded as promptly as
it could to the Committee's needs. For example, the Department has yet
to respond to questions stemming from its hearing on revenue sharing
last July. In addition, I am enclosing a letter from Senator Markey
identifying two requests from over a year ago. If confirmed, will you
ensure that our questions are promptly answered?
Answer. I understand the importance of the Committee's oversight
role and the Department's relationship with the Committee. If
confirmed, I will work to ensure that the Department promptly responds
to the Committee's requests.
Question 2. Through the Department's WaterSMART Program and the
SECURE Water Act, DOI partners with local governments and non-
governmental organizations to strengthen our scientific understanding
of water availability while working to secure and stretch water
supplies for the future. As you know, water is needed to develop and
generate energy, and energy is needed to transport, treat and heat
water. While the programs I mentioned recognize that water and energy
are inextricably linked, their scope is limited to DOI. What can we do
to integrate water and energy policies on a larger scale-- both within
the federal government and with state, local and tribal governments as
well as the private sector?
Answer. Energy and water issues are intersecting with more
frequency and intensity across a range of Interior activities,
including hydropower generation, energy extraction, thermoelectric
cooling; and water management, distribution, and treatment.
Accordingly, energy and water issues are at the core of Interior's
responsibilities and priorities and we continue to make progress in
developing policies that account for this linkage. Further, Interior
stands ready to work with other agencies on energy-water nexus issues
where mission responsibilities overlap to leverage federal resources
for science and technology development, developing best practices, and
promoting data sharing across both the government and the private
sector. In my view, one particular area of focus should be water
availability and associated data gaps; better data on water
availability is needed in order to assess the trends and potential
vulnerabilities associated with water use for energy development.
Question 3. In your opinion, what are key institutions that are
involved in policy making on the energy, water nexus?
Answer. At the federal level, the Department, the Department of
Energy, and other federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection
Agency and Army Corps of Engineers are key institutions. States have
lead control over water allocation and use and energy development on
non-federal lands. Private enterprise is responsible for most energy
development and electric generation, but local, tribal, and private
entities are key partners. The Council on Environmental Quality
encourages coordination and participation by both public and private
entities. The Department also works with other agencies on an issue-
specific basis to coordinate on energy-water initiatives. The 2010 MOU
among Interior, Energy, and the Army Corps of Engineers on hydropower
and non-hydro renewable energy is an example of collaboration and
shared resources to better integrate federal programs and policies and
facilitate private renewable energy development.
Responses of Michael L. Connor to Questions From Senator Murkowski
Question 4. Federal Trust Responsibility to Native Americans--The
federal government's commitment to tribal sovereignty and the
individual well-being of Native Americans, combined with the obligation
to manage Indian lands and funds, is commonly referred to as the
federal trust responsibility.
a. What is your understanding of the federal trust responsibility
to Native Americans? Specifically, how far do you think this trust
responsibility extends with respect to the overall welfare of tribal
Answer. With an extensive background in Federal Indian law, I
understand that the government's trust responsibility is a moral and
legal obligation to protect tribal rights, lands, assets, and resources
as well as a duty to carry out the mandates of federal law with respect
to American Indian and Alaska native tribes and villages. I also
understand that, while the United States' trust responsibility is
government-wide, the Department is often the primary agency charged by
law with meeting the trust responsibility to Native Americans and
Question b. How would you ensure that tribal interests and the
Indian Trust responsibility are not sacrificed in favor of competing
priorities within the Department?
Answer. Both President Obama and Secretary Jewell have pledged to
Indian Country that in this Administration, American Indians and Alaska
Natives will have an important voice in the policy and decision making
affecting Indian Country. If confirmed, I plan to continue their good
work and ensure that the Department upholds this trust responsibility
and continues to make it a priority.
Question 5. Arctic Development--The Department is currently working
on several proposals that would impact oil and gas development in the
Arctic including broad-based Arctic-specific standards, updated air
program regulations, and a joint effort with NMFS to support incidental
a. What is your position with respect to oil and gas development in
b. What role do you envision playing in oil and gas development in
the Arctic, if confirmed?
c. What is the status of the pending lease sales in the Arctic--in
2016 and 2017--and how would you manage them?
Answer. I am fully supportive of the Administration's commitment to
facilitating a targeted, comprehensive, science-based approach to
energy policy in the rapidly changing Arctic. If confirmed, I look
forward to working with Secretary Jewell and our team at Interior to
continue to implement this principle with decisions informed by the
best available science and developed with wide and sustained
stakeholder engagement and public input. Transparency and
accountability are paramount to achieving outcomes that reflect the
interests of those most affected by our actions in the Arctic and in
all of our decision-making. I would look forward to a strong
partnership with you and this Committee to those ends. I am not
familiar with the specific status of future lease sales in the Arctic,
but I am aware that they are being planned pursuant to the current 5-
year plan. If confirmed I would be happy to work with my colleagues in
the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to address your concerns.
Question 6. Revenue-Sharing--Senator Landrieu and I introduced the
FAIR Act earlier this year to extend revenue sharing to all coastal
states with energy development off their shores. This includes
renewable energy, and our bill would also include renewable energy in
the existing onshore revenue sharing program.
a. Please describe the Administration's position on the concept of
revenue sharing for coastal energy-producing states.
b. At a legislative hearing on the FAIR Act earlier this year, the
written testimony of the Administration witness--from the Department of
the Interior--noted that the Administration ``cannot support the
bill.'' Please describe the type of revenue sharing legislation the
Administration would be willing to support.
c. If confirmed, will you work with us to advance the FAIR Act?
Answer. I know that the Administration is mindful of the long-held
view that coastal states should share the benefits of energy
development that takes place offshore and currently implements
statutory revenue sharing under existing law. With respect to future
legislation, the Administration's testimony on the FAIR Act outlines
several principles that are key to any potential agreement on how to
proceed. I know this is an issue that you care deeply about and, if
confirmed, I commit to meeting with you in an effort to find any common
ground that may exist and to work toward a path forward.
Question 7. Alaska Native Claims Settlements--In 1971 Congress
passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act that promised Natives 45
million acres of lands in return for extinguishment of their aboriginal
land claims. Currently, BLM still needs to convey 1.9 million acres of
those lands by interim conveyance and survey and patent nearly 13
million more to complete the settlement. In addition, BLM still owes
the State of Alaska 5.1 million (interim conveyance) of its 104 million
acres promised at Statehood in 1959, and needs to finish surveying and
patent on 43 million of those acres. The Department in recent years has
proposed to cut funding for these land conveyances.
a. What is your view of the Department's role in completing these
b. How will you address the budgeting for the work?
Answer. The Department is committed to completing the transfer of
lands to Alaska Natives, Corporations, and the State as required by
ANSCA. To accomplish this, I understand that the Bureau of Land
Management is implementing improvements in how it manages the Alaska
conveyance program to reduce costs. If confirmed, I commit to working
with BLM to ensure that completion of these land exchanges moves
forward as quickly as possible.
Question 8. ANWR/1002--The State of Alaska has submitted a
comprehensive exploration plan for seismic surveys in the 1002 area of
ANWR to the USFWS. This kind of exploration is badly needed to update
our understanding of the country's natural resources, and the State has
shown that it is willing to take the lead on financing and driving the
effort. Despite the advanced technology and extremely minimal impact on
the environment detailed in the plan, the USFWS has not even reviewed
the substance of the plan, but instead claimed the clear language
authorizing these plans in ANILCA Section 1002(e) is expired.
a. Why hasn't the USFWS considered an interpretation of the law
that would allow for more scientific information to be gathered for the
benefit of the nation as a whole?
b. Can you commit to partnering with the State to collect up-to-
date information about the natural resources in ANWR to better inform
Congress about its value to the nation?
Answer. While I am not intimately familiar with this issue, I
understand that, based on long-standing legal interpretation, the FWS
has found that the underlying statute and its 1983-84 implementing
regulations bar it from considering the exploration plan and permit
application. Should I be confirmed, I commit to maintaining the strong
interagency and intergovernmental partnerships that the Department and
its bureaus have established to share vital information about the
resources we manage on behalf of the American public.
Question 9. Legacy Well Cleanup--The federal government between
1944 and 1981 drilled 137 exploration oil and gas wells in northern
Alaska, most in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. There are over
100 legacy wells drilled in the NPR-A by the federal government that
are un-remediated and in need of clean-up. The government, however, has
properly plugged, capped and cleaned contaminated soils from around
just 18 of those wells. If these wells had been drilled by the private
sector, companies would owe the State of Alaska approximately $40
billion in fines. This winter the Administration, as part of its budget
proposal, sought to take back Alaska's 50 percent share of oil and gas
revenues for use to pay for cleanup. That is totally unacceptable to
Alaska. The federal government has a responsibility to complete this
a. Will you work within the Department to properly budget for the
cleanup of these wells and keep this work on schedule?
b. Can you commit to prioritizing legacy well clean-up using
federal funds to meet this federal obligation?
c. Would you be willing to work with the EPA to explore common
sense solutions to these wells, including potentially through the use
of Clean Water Act compensatory mitigation programs?
Answer. Yes, if confirmed I will work with BLM to ensure that there
is appropriate budgeting for the cleanup of these wells. I understand
that BLM has developed a multi-year strategic plan for the clean-up and
that implementation of the plan will be addressed using federal funds.
If confirmed, I would be willing to work with the EPA to look at
solutions for clean-up of these wells.
Question 10. Interagency Working Group on Alaska Energy--Deputy
Secretary Hayes was intimately involved in the Interagency Working
Group on Alaska Energy. This group is vital to bringing the appropriate
parties to the table to move large infrastructure and development
projects forward. The group will also be important to any national
Arctic strategy efforts. Despite this group's exclusive focus on
Alaska, state officials and experts have had to push for their
involvement and input in the past.
a. What are the Department's plans for this group's work product in
b. If confirmed, what level of involvement will you have with the
c. Will you commit to consulting with the State of Alaska so that
those who are most experienced and affected by the working group's
decisions can directly participate?
Answer. The Department is actively engaged in efforts to support
the Administration's commitment to facilitating a comprehensive,
science-based approach to energy policy in the rapidly changing Arctic.
I know that the Interagency Working Group on Alaska Energy was
established by Executive Order to coordinate federal agencies
responsible for overseeing the safe, responsible, and efficient
development of onshore and offshore energy in Alaska with a focus on
interagency coordination, information sharing, science-driven long-term
planning and stakeholder engagement. If confirmed as deputy secretary,
I will serve as Chair of the Working Group.
I believe that it is imperative for the exploration and development
of Alaska's immense natural resources to be rooted in strong federal,
state and Native partnerships, robust public input and inclusive and
transparent planning. If confirmed, I will work with Secretary Jewell
and our team at Interior to build upon the good work of my predecessor,
David Hayes, in promoting resource management decisions in the Arctic
that integrate science-based, cultural, environmental, and economic
factors, as well as consultation with the State and all interested
stakeholders. Further, our efforts will align with the related efforts
in developing the National Strategy for the Arctic Region and ensure
that these resources are explored and developed safely and responsibly
and in a manner that respects traditional knowledge of Native
communities and benefits local communities without compromising the
region's rich and fragile ecosystems.
Question 11. BLM Land Use in Alaska--The Bureau of Land Management
has undertaken a variety of troubling actions that are increasingly
limiting uses on the enormous amount of ``multiple-use'' BLM lands in
Alaska. These lands are to be managed for the public so that the people
of the country can use the lands in a variety of ways.
a. Can you commit to expanding rather than restricting the rights
of Alaskans to access and use their federal lands?
Answer. I am committed to working closely with stakeholders in the
State to maintain legal access to public lands for multiple uses and
expand that access where appropriate. It is the responsibility of the
Department of the Interior to sustain the health, diversity, and
productivity of America's public lands for the use and enjoyment of
current and future generations. This is especially true in Alaska,
where a large percentage of the land is managed by the federal
government and the resources are so vital to the economy of the State
and to the people, including Alaska Natives.
b. In this same vein, BLM has recently claimed that access cannot
be granted to state-selected BLM lands for mining exploration. This
reverses thirty years of existing policy and limits both private
businesses and the State from delineating valuable natural resources on
these lands. Can you commit to addressing this access problem and
supporting the State's interests in mineral exploration?
Answer. If confirmed, I will work closely with the Department's
Solicitor's Office and the BLM to expedite review of the Secretary's
authority to issue permits on State-selected lands.
Question 12. EPA Raid--The most troubling example of federal
overreach is the recent raid on Alaskan miners led by the EPA's
environmental crimes unit.
a. What role did DOI have in this raid, including information
sharing or planning assistance?
Answer. While I am not familiar with this issue, I am told that the
EPA-led Fortymile River initiative was a joint federal-State effort to
identify and investigate reported mining-related water quality
violations in the Fortymile Mining District. Participating agencies
were the EPA; the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation,
Environmental Crimes Unit; and the Alaska Department of Law, Office of
Special Prosecutions; the BLM; and U.S. Attorney's Office for the
District of Alaska. I am advised that four BLM law enforcement officers
participated in the operation. The BLM's field station in Chicken,
Alaska, served as a staging area and a BLM fixed-wing aircraft was used
to fly over the area.
Question 12b. What knowledge did DOI have of this raid before it
was carried out?
Answer. The BLM has advised me that, as a member of the joint
federal-State team, BLM's Office of Law Enforcement and Security
participated in the operation.
Question 12c. How was it determined that these extreme methods
should be used for this raid?
Answer. I understand that a total of eight federal and State law
enforcement officers were on the ground during the operation, divided
into two teams of four. Two members of the team contacted the mining
claimant to explain the purpose of the visit while the other two
members of the team took water samples. I am told that at the
conclusion of the operation, both ground teams reported cordial
interactions with virtually all the claimants/operators contacted.
Question 12d. Was BLM or DOI involved in this decision making? If
so, please describe in detail how and why either agency was involved.
Answer. As a member of the federal-State team, the BLM's Office of
Law Enforcement and Security participated in the operation.
According to the BLM, the Fortymile Mining District lies within the
Fortymile River drainage, portions of which are a designated National
Wild and Scenic River managed by the BLM, and the area contains dozens
of federal and State mining claims with the BLM responsible for
administering the federal claims. While the EPA has primary authority
for enforcement of the Clean Water Act, the Department is responsible
for enforcement of environmental laws and regulations related to mining
impacts on BLM-managed resources, including mining activities conducted
under BLM-issued permits.
Question 12e. What policies would you implement at DOI to ensure
that these kinds of dangerous and threatening raids are not carried out
by the agencies you would be responsible for in the future, if you are
Answer. If confirmed, I would work with the BLM and other Interior
bureaus to ensure that they closely coordinate and communicate with
state and local authorities and use their enforcement authority
Question 13. RS 2477 Trails--Recognizing that numerous RS 2477
trails have historical and factual questions that need resolution and
will likely be litigated, still, there are many trails that the State
and BLM agree are both valid and open.
a. For RS 2477 trails upon which both the State and BLM agree are
valid and open, can BLM use a recordable disclaimer of interest process
to simplify their use? If not, why not? If so, can you commit to using
a recordable disclaimer of interest process?
Answer. I am aware that the Department, through the BLM, is trying
to build a constructive, inclusive solution to the issue of RS 2477
rights-of-way. I am committed to continuing this approach, which may
help establish a model for consensus-based problem solving that can be
applied to resolve any potential future RS 2477 claims.
Responses of Michael L. Connor to Questions From Senator Landrieu
Question 14. As Deputy Director of the Department of the Interior,
you would be in a position to oversee the operations of the Burueau of
Safety and Environmental Enforcement- the agency tasked with oversight
and investigation into the operations of oil and gas operators in the
Federal OCS. I want to bring your attention to an issue currently
facing BSEE. In 2004, during Hurricane Ivan, one of Taylor Energy's
rigs collapsed, and sank into the mud on the seafloor. All site
assessments by the BSEE, outside groups and Taylor Energy itself have
indicated that leakage from the rig is infinitesimally minimal, and
that by any reasonable measure the rig is unrecoverable. Despite this,
over $400 million of Taylor Energy's assets are currently held in a
fund by BSEE that is earmarked for recovery operations. It has become
clear that there is no path forward, and that the entirety of this
money serves no purpose in this fund. Do you have a plan to spur action
on the part of BSEE to resolve the issue and release at least some
portion of these funds? What would this plan look like?
Answer. I am not familiar with this specific issue but have been
informed that BSEE continues to be in discussions with Taylor Energy on
this matter and is working in close consultation with its federal
partners in an effort to resolve these issues and to ensure that the
site is handled responsibly. If confirmed, I will work with BSEE as it
continues, along with Taylor and federal partners, to expeditiously
develop a long-term solution that is consistent with obligations under
the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and protects the resources of the
Gulf of Mexico.
Question 15. What do you plan to do in your position as the Deputy
Director of Interior to ensure that coastal states are able to benefit
from offshore energy production in a fashion similar to that of onshore
states, which have enjoyed a longstanding partnership with the Federal
Answer. As I indicated in response to a similar question from
Senator Murkowski, the Administration is mindful of the long-held view
that coastal states should share the benefits of energy development
that takes place offshore and currently implements statutory revenue
sharing under existing law. With respect to possibly changing existing
law, the Administration's testimony on the FAIR Act outlines several
principles that are key to any potential new approach to revenue
sharing. I know this is an issue that you care deeply about and, if
confirmed, I commit to meeting with you in an effort to find any common
ground that may exist and to work toward a path forward.
Question 16. What do you plan to do to ensure that the devastating
coastal erosion being suffered by Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf is
stopped, and that marshlands and barrier islands destroyed by large
scale mismanagement of the Mississippi river are rebuilt or restored?
Answer. I know that the Mississippi River Delta and its coastal
wetlands and barrier islands is a natural asset of tremendous value to
the nation, supporting important shipping, energy, seafood, and
recreation industries. It also provides extensive coastal habitats for
a variety of fish and wildlife.
Protecting and restoring this highly productive and important
ecosystem is a priority, but I believe it cannot be achieved by the
Interior Department alone. Such an effort will require the coordinated
and strategic actions of multiple partners, with federal efforts being
complementary and building off of state coastal restoration planning
I have been advised that the FWS, working with the Department, has
developed a ``Vision for a Healthy Gulf of Mexico Watershed'' that
identifies cooperative conservation strategies to implement in a number
of conservation-focused areas. I look forward to learning more about
these strategies and how they will be implemented to stop Louisiana's,
and the Gulf's, coastal erosion; and facilitate restoration and
recovery of this vital national asset. Should I be confirmed, I would
be happy to further engage in a cooperative dialogue with you about how
we can work together to address this complex issue.
Responses of Michael L. Connor to Questions From Senator Barrasso
Question 17. Mr. Connor, I'd like to inquire about sage grouse and
the Endangered Species Act. The people of Wyoming are very concerned
about the Fish and Wildlife Service's pending listing determination for
this bird. As you know, BLM has begun an unprecedented effort to
preclude the need to list the sage grouse. Specifically, BLM is in the
process of revising approximately 88 Resource Management Plans. Within
these Plans, BLM is including directions for how land managers should
address the sage grouse under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The potential habitat for the sage grouse- if listed-would cover
most of Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and parts of Oregon and
Colorado. The impact of such a listing on the economy and jobs in my
state, and other western states, would be devastating.
Will you commit your time and effort towards working to ensure that
the greater sage grouse does not end up on the endangered species list?
Will you work collaboratively with the governors of the appropriate
states to find the best approach to manage the sage grouse?
Answer. I share Secretary Jewell's view that collaboration is the
key to effectively addressing the threats to sage grouse populations
and, if confirmed, I will work hard alongside the Secretary to seek
solutions to avoid the need to list the bird. I understand that the FWS
and BLM continue to work together, along with state and local
governments and landowners, in taking unprecedented conservation
initiatives aimed at avoiding the need to list the species. I
appreciate the work that states and private landowners have done and I
look forward to coordinating with those stakeholders, including the
governors of the appropriate states, in continuing this proactive
Question 18. Do you believe the Interior Department should
prioritize wildfire prevention activities and our national parks and
public lands' maintenance backlog ahead of spending money to acquire
Answer. I know that protecting lives, communities, and our natural
resources from wildfires and addressing the maintenance backlog at our
national parks and public lands are critically important issues that
must be addressed by the Department. At the same time, land acquisition
is a long-term investment that is part of a balanced approach intended
to protect our natural and cultural treasures. By acquiring land
strategically, the Department is able to join with partners to conserve
significant landscapes before they require more expensive efforts to
sustain them, resolve conflict, and reduce landscape fragmentation.
Accordingly, land acquisition can make it more efficient to protect
wildlife habitat, respond to wildfires and other natural disasters, and
to improve access to recreational opportunities.
Question 19. The BLM has a multiple use mission as set forth in the
Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 to manage public land
resources for a variety of uses, such as energy development, livestock
grazing, recreation, and timber harvesting. If confirmed, what actions
are you going to take to ensure the BLM meets this statutory multiple
Answer. I believe that multiple use is best achieved when we manage
our public lands in a manner that helps ensure balanced use. Regardless
of whether public land use involves hunters or anglers, mountain
bikers, OHVers, oil and gas development companies, or others, it is
important to get people to the table to work together to find common
ground. If confirmed, I commit to pursuing cooperative efforts grounded
in a fundamental recognition of the legitimate interests of affected
stakeholders and to working to achieve certainty and clarity on
resource management issues.
Question 20. I have introduced the Grazing Improvement Act. The Act
would extend the term of Federal grazing permits from 10 to 20 years
and streamline the renewal process for grazing permits. It also
restores the BLM's the ability to use categorical exclusions.
Do you view livestock grazing as primarily a commodity use of
public lands or a tool for the proper management of these lands?
Do you support giving the BLM the ability to utilize categorical
Answer. Like Secretary Jewell, I believe strongly that livestock
operations on public lands are important to the economic well-being and
cultural identity of Western communities, and that at the right levels
and timing, grazing can serve as an important vegetation management
tool in maintaining rangeland health and meeting rangeland health
standards. While I am not familiar with the specifics of categorical
exclusions in the management of grazing, I am aware that the engagement
of the public through the environmental review process is a crucial
component in the BLM's multiple-use management of public lands. As I
stated in my confirmation hearing, I am committed to providing
stakeholders on public lands with certainty and clarity on resource
Question 21. How will you strive to improve the relationship
between the agency and stakeholders who hold grazing permits on public
Answer. Throughout my tenure as Commissioner of the Bureau of
Reclamation, I have been committed to bringing people together to find
common ground and solutions to difficult issues. As I pointed out in my
confirmation hearing, Secretary Jewell has charted the right course
with her substantive engagement on the challenging issues we face and
her clear commitment to ensuring that the Department will be guided by
transparency and integrity in carrying out its mission. If confirmed, I
will work with stakeholders, including ranchers, to ensure that the
public lands are sustainably managed for multiple uses, including
Question 22. The Interior department is running out of options to
deal with excessive wild horses on BLM land and feral horses in Indian
Country. The long and short term holding facilities are full, fertility
control is too extensive and ineffective, and horses are overgrazing
riparian areas and destroying wildlife habitat. What BLM administrative
or policy changes do you believe would improve the implementation of
the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act to reduce cost and improve compliance
with Appropriate Management Levels in the west to avoid severe
Answer. Although I am not familiar with the details of the BLM's
holding facilities or ongoing fertility control efforts, I am aware
that wild horses and burros pose unique on-the-range management
challenges. I understand the BLM is continuing to develop and implement
a targeted strategy informed by the National Academy of Sciences'
recent review, while also working to find ways to make the program more
effective and sustainable within the existing statutory framework. If
confirmed, I look forward to continuing a collaborative process with
affected stakeholders to implement cost-effective and ecologically
sustainable strategies that are informed by the best available science
and maintain healthy public rangelands.
Question 23. What role do you believe state and local governments
play in defining the appropriate multiple use and sustained yield
standard within their jurisdictions?
Answer. I am committed to public engagement and connecting with
state and local communities. State and local governments play a vitally
important role here, just as tribes, stakeholders and communities do as
well. The Department and the BLM seek and welcome input from the public
and all our stakeholders during the land-use planning process and in
the course of evaluating other land-use and resource management
decisions. If confirmed, I look forward to working with state and local
governments, as well as a variety of partners in the management of the
nation's public lands.
Question 24. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama
said that his ``administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding
up new oil and gas permits.'' If confirmed, what would you do to speed
up oil and gas permitting on Federal public lands? Please address
whether you would: (1) expedite the leasing process; (2) expand the use
of categorical exclusions under NEPA; (3) eliminate the requirement for
Master Leasing Plans; and (4) deploy ``strike teams,'' such as those
used in North Dakota, to reduce permitting backlogs.
Answer. Like Secretary Jewell, I understand that businesses need
clarity, certainty, and predictability and that our oil and gas
resources are vital to our nation's economy, but that they must be
developed in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. If
confirmed, I would continue to strive toward maximizing program
efficiency to ensure that the BLM implements modern best practices to
ensure efficient processing of pending and new permit applications
while also promoting safety and environmental responsibility.
Question 25. Over the last few years, the Department has expedited
environmental impact statements under NEPA for a number of large scale
renewable energy projects on Federal public lands. If confirmed, what
steps, if any, would you take to expedite environmental impact
statements for large scale coal, oil and gas, and uranium projects on
Federal public lands?
Answer. I would seek efficiencies to processes that save both time
and money, and to improve processes both at the Department of the
Interior and its bureaus as well as with other federal and state
agencies and tribes. I understand the importance of providing certainty
when it comes to land management decisions that affect the private
sector and the public. In addition, I would work with and fully engage
elected officials, industry, and the many and varied users of the
public lands to address the need for robust domestic energy production.
Question 26. BLM managers undertook a review of Wilderness Study
Areas and found many of these areas unsuitable for designation as
wilderness; however, these lands continue to be managed in a
restrictive fashion as WSAs. With the threat and cost of fire
suppression growing due to greater fuel load and passive management
over the last three decades, many of these areas are a severe wildfire
waiting to happen. Such wildfires hurt wildlife habitat, increase
erosion, pollute waterways, and create water quality problems and costs
for communities. Would you support the clear direction and
recommendations of BLM officials to release these areas to allow for
suitable management to prevent wildfires?
Answer. If confirmed, I would welcome the opportunity to work with
Congress to resolve issues of wilderness designation and WSA release.
Prevention of wildfires is an important component of the Department's
Wildland Fire Management Program. My understanding is that the
Department's fuels reduction efforts prioritize projects in areas that
result in the mitigation of risks to communities and their values.
Question 27. The LWCF Act will be up for reauthorization in 2015.
Will you pledge to work with Congress and state and local parks and
recreation officials to make appropriate changes to the Act to restore
the original intent of the fund?
Answer. I support the Administration's commitment to full funding
of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will provide needed
stability for agencies and States to make strategic, long-term
investments in our natural infrastructure and outdoor economy to
support jobs, preserve natural and cultural resources, bolster outdoor
recreation opportunities, and protect wildlife. If confirmed, I look
forward to working with the Congress and other stakeholders to explore
opportunities to address this issue.
Question 28. How effective do you believe the Endangered Species
Act (ESA) has been over the past few decades? Do you think there are
improvements that are needed to modernize it for current society and
Answer. I believe that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been
effective in achieving its primary objective: to prevent the extinction
of plants and animals in the U.S. At the same time, there is always a
need to improve implementation to be more responsive to both the needs
of species and to the ideas and concerns of citizens. I know that the
Department, along with the Department of Commerce, has identified
several administrative improvements to the regulations implementing the
ESA as priorities to undertake in response to Executive Order 13563 on
``Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.'' If confirmed, I look
forward to supporting these and other administrative efforts to improve
and modernize implementation of the ESA.
Question 29. As you know, in 2011, there was a closed-door
settlement agreement between the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and two
environmental groups that led to a six-year listing work plan for the
FWS to review and potentially list more than 250 species. Many of these
species have potential habitat that combined covers most of the Western
States. However, none of the affected states or communities were a
party to the agreement. Do you believe that is an open and transparent
way to make public policy that significantly impacts Americans?
Answer. I have been advised that the MDL settlements committed the
FWS to make listing determinations required by the ESA for 251 species
on a workable and publicly available schedule. The settlements did not
commit the FWS to add these species to the list; rather, they committed
the FWS to make a determination by a date certain as to whether listing
was still warranted and, if so, to publish a proposed rule--subject to
public notice and comment--to initiate the rulemaking process of adding
a species to the list. The settlement agreements enable stakeholders to
know in advance when the FWS will be reviewing these candidates to
determine whether a listing proposal is still warranted.
I believe that sustained engagement with partners and the public
will best serve improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover
imperiled species. If confirmed, I will work to ensure that the ESA is
implemented in a manner that is responsive to both the needs of
imperiled resources and the concerns of local communities.
Question 30. What are your thoughts on administrative or policy
improvements to the implementation of the ESA? Can and should changes
be made to reduce legal challenges?
Answer. As I stated in response to a previous question, I am aware
of planned administrative and policy improvements to the ESA that the
Department has identified as priorities in response to Executive Order
13563, ``Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.'' I support
efforts like these and, if confirmed, would support similar efforts in
With regard to legal challenges, I realize that lawsuits can
sometimes frustrate agency objectives in allocating limited resources
to accomplish conservation goals. My understanding is that this
Administration has succeeded in dramatically reducing the amount of ESA
litigation in recent years. If confirmed, I look forward to working
with you and the Committee to discuss implementation of the ESA and
ways to improve it.
Question 31. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been one of the
most abused federal Acts in recent memory. Special interest
organizations have broken the financial back of the Fish and Wildlife
Service (FSW) by filing petitions to list thousands of species knowing
that it would be impossible for the FWS to respond under the required
deadlines. Even worse these litigants continue the onslaught by suing
the FWS for failing to meet arbitrary deadlines. The net result is less
federal funding for conservation, and millions of dollars in attorney
fees to these litigants. And with the ESA only having a 1 percent
success rate of delistings, it only stands to reason that these
litigants have further crippled the ability for conservation success.
Would you support amending the ESA to give the FWS more discretion to
respond to these mass litigants and reduce government dollars being
wasted on abusive litigation?
Answer. As I noted in response to the previous question, I realize
that lawsuits can sometimes frustrate agency objectives in allocating
limited resources to accomplish conservation goals. My understanding is
that this Administration has succeeded in dramatically reducing the
amount of ESA litigation in recent years. If confirmed, I look forward
to working with you and the Committee to discuss implementation of the
ESA and ways to improve it.
Question 32. Currently, wealthy non-profits that file process-based
lawsuits against the government concerning ESA listing decisions,
grazing permit renewals and other DOI decisions have access to taxpayer
dollars. Do you believe this should occur for organizations worth tens
of millions of dollars?
Answer. I understand that the ESA's citizen suit provisions and the
Equal Access to Justice Act provide mechanisms for parties that sue the
Government to challenge decisions or inaction and prevail to recover
reasonable attorney fees. I would defer to the Department of Justice on
whether a means test could be built into those authorities and still be
fair and equitable. I am generally concerned about the costs of
litigation and if confirmed will work to reduce those costs.
Question 33. How can the administration facilitate the NEPA process
in a manner that reduces opportunities for lawsuits from extreme groups
opposed to multiple use?
Answer. Each year federal agencies conduct hundreds of thousands of
actions, yet I understand that the amount of litigation on these is
relatively small. Modernizing NEPA to better assist federal agencies to
meet the goals of NEPA, enhance the quality of public involvement in
governmental decisions, ensure compliance in a more timely fashion,
increase transparency, and improve its implementation is a priority of
the Administration. If confirmed, I will support this effort as it
applies to the multiple uses of our public lands and other activities
of the Department.
Question 34. Do you believe we can predict what the weather will be
in Wyoming or any other State 10, 20 or 50 years from now with any
accuracy, and what the impact will be to the landscape from that
If you cannot predict with any accuracy, how will U.S. taxpayer
investments today to protect species decades from now based on
inaccurate computer models guarantee any success?
Answer. As Secretary Jewell noted in response to a similar question
during her confirmation, while we cannot predict with certainty either
day-to-day weather or its impact on the landscape in 5, 10, or 50
years, the consensus in the scientific community is that climate change
is a reality. As the manager and steward of 20 percent of the nation's
lands, thousands of miles of coastline, and nearly two billion acres on
the Outer Continental Shelf, as well as water, fish, wildlife, and
other natural resources, the Department has to make management
decisions today based on the best scientific information available and
consistent with applicable law. The Department will continue to manage
the public's lands to increase their resiliency in a changing climate.
Question 35. In your opinion, what is the difference between the
terms ``extreme weather'' and anthropogenic, man-made ``climate
Answer. While I am not a climate scientist, I would describe
``extreme weather'' as short-term regional climate phenomena and
``climate change'' as a more long-term trend.
Question 36. Water is the lifeblood of western states, with the
Bureau of Reclamation providing much of that water to our communities.
My home State of Wyoming alone has a series of proposed water storage
projects that will need to go through the currently lengthy and
burdensome permitting process. Will you commit to expedite the approval
of new water storage projects in the West to provide for rural
communities that are in need?
Answer. There are roughly three dozen Reclamation dam projects,
project features or other storage facilities across the West that were
authorized by Congress but, were never funded or constructed. The
situations vary, but the most frequent causes center around
questionable economics or an inadequate potential water market, making
the required repayment obligation prohibitive for the potential
beneficiaries. In addition, new societal priorities and scientific
advancements have brought increased focus on efficient management,
wastewater reclamation, and conservation to meet communities' needs. In
addition to operating and maintaining our existing projects, these
priorities have become central parts of the Reclamation mission today,
and some of them yield significant quantities of new water supply in a
very cost efficient manner. New storage projects will also be needed to
address the water supply challenges facing the West. If confirmed, I
will work with the Congress to expedite any projects that provide net
economic benefits, are fiscally sound and can be constructed and
operated consistent with existing environmental laws.
Question 37. As part of the Cobell v. Salazar settlement agreement,
approximately $1.9 billion was funded for the fractionated Indian land
purchase program. This program provides an opportunity for meaningful
tribal participation and input into the buy-back decisions and program
If confirmed, what type of active role will you take in this
program in working with Indian tribes to address their concerns of
participation and input to the fullest extent practicable in light of
the settlement agreement and the Claims Resolution Act of 2010?
Answer. If confirmed, I will take an active role in the buy-back
program. The Department's intent is for the implementation plan to be
flexible and continually updated to reflect lessons-learned, best
practices, and tribal involvement. I have been advised that an initial
plan was published last year, and the program is currently drafting an
updated implementation plan that responds to comments and concerns
received during government-to-government consultations from January to
March 2013, among other things.
Question 38a. There are a number of different water delivery-
related projects administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs,
including the Wind River Irrigation Project (WRIP) on the Wind River
Indian reservation in Wyoming. According to a 2006 Government
Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled, ``Indian Irrigation
Projects: Numerous Issues Need to Be Addressed to Improve Project
Management and Financial Sustainability,'' Report No. GAO-06-314, there
is a significant backlog in irrigation project repair and maintenance
for many of these projects.
At a prior Committee hearing, ``To Receive the Views of Ken
Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, on Matters of Indian Affairs,'' in
February 12, 2009, Secretary Salazar committed to review these
irrigation issues. At the Committee hearing, ``To Receive the Views and
Priorities of Interior Secretary Jewell with Regard to Matters of
Indian Affairs,'' on May 15, 2013, Secretary Jewell also committed to
have Department officials work to figure out how to address these
If confirmed, will addressing these deferred maintenance problems
identified in the 2006 GAO Report be a priority?
Answer. My understanding is that the current deferred maintenance
estimate of $609 million reflects the results of completed condition
assessments at 12 Projects of the 16 irrigation projects, and a partial
study completion at Navajo Indian Irrigation Projects (NIIP). As the
final condition assessments at Wapato, San Carlos Irrigation Project
(SCIP) Indian Works, SCIP-Joint Works, and NIIP are finalized, the
deferred maintenance estimate will improve even further. The challenge
within the BIA is the strong need for funding in all of our programs,
such as law enforcement, education, and social services. Funding
reductions to existing programs to pay for irrigation improvements may
not align with competing priorities among the Tribes we serve. I will
work closely with BIA leadership and the Congress to examine potential
approaches through new funding sources.
Question 39b. If confirmed, how will you provide leadership in
developing a more comprehensive plan of action for the future of the
Bureau of Indian Affairs irrigation projects?
Answer. If confirmed, I will meet with BIA leadership to assess
their work to date and be actively involved in developing a plan of
action for the future of their irrigation projects. I would be pleased
to provide briefings to you and your staff as we move forward.
Question 39. High crime rates, emerging prescription drug abuse,
lack of detention facilities, insufficient funding, high declination
rates for Federal prosecutions, and recidivism remain challenges for
Indian Country law enforcement, detention, and tribal courts. Congress
passed the Tribal Law and Order Act to begin addressing these issues.
In addition, Congress funded the High Priority Performance Goal pilot
program through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, with one of the four
initial sites located on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
If confirmed, how do you plan to continue implementing this pilot
program on the Wind River Indian Reservation?
Answer. BIA has informed me that, as part of the FY 2010 pilot
program, the recurring base of BIA public safety resources supporting
the Wind River Indian Reservation was increased by 133 percent over the
FY 2009 funding level. This higher funding level has continued, and
will continue in the future so that all three components of the Wind
River public safety system can continue to address the unique and
significant public safety challenges on the reservation.
If confirmed, how do you plan to coordinate more effectively with
the Department of Justice to address crimes rates on Indian lands?
Answer. I have been informed that in April of 2013, the Bureau of
Indian Affairs--Office of Justice Services and the Department of
Justice--Office of Tribal Justice entered into a MOU regarding placing
an OJS employee within the OTJ to serve at a liaison between the two
offices. It is my understanding that the intent of this MOU is to
facilitate and coordinate information sharing between the Department of
Justice and the Department of the Interior concerning public safety
matters in Indian Country. If confirmed, I will see to it that the
Department continues to be fully engaged with its partners and seek new
opportunities to reduce the crime rates in Indian Country.
Question 40. There is significant potential for energy development
on American Indian and Alaska Native lands. The Energy Policy Act of
2005 authorized Tribal Energy Resource Agreements (TERAs) to facilitate
energy development on tribal trust lands and to bypass cumbersome
Please explain your views on how the Department can best assist
Indian tribes that wish to develop their trust energy resources in
achieving their goals.
Answer. I was personally involved in developing the TERA provisions
of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and therefore fully understand that
facilitating the development of tribal energy resources is a key way to
spur economic development in Indian Country. I am aware that the Office
of Indian Energy and Economic Development assists Tribes in the
development of energy resources in furtherance of the goal of Indian
Self-Determination, and accomplishes this by providing technical
assistance to build the technical and managerial capabilities of Tribes
over the development of their energy resources. I understand that IEED
also meets with Tribes to improve how it can best assist Tribes that
wish to develop their energy resources. To further improve this
process, the Department will consider compiling best practices,
identifying model energy policies and codes, and providing additional
training and other assistance to Tribes. If I am confirmed, I look
forward to learning more about this issue and the ways that the
Department's bureaus can help Tribest that wish to develop their energy
Question 41. The justification for the costly Moose Wilson Road EIS
is the presence of grizzly bears in the area which Grand Teton National
Park says were not present before 2010.
If grizzly bear presence would limit use on a 150 year established
road corridor that predates the park establishment, doesn't that
potentially affect many uses in addition-- limiting hiking, biking,
horseback riding and pedestrian uses throughout federal lands where a
grizzly bear population is present?
If that is the case, recreational users across this country need to
take note of the unusual precedent GTNP is trying to establish with
Answer. Although I am not familiar with the specifics of this
issue, I understand that the NPS considers the increased presence and
frequency of grizzly bears in the Moose--Wilson Corridor of Grand Teton
National Park to be a changed circumstance, and important in evaluating
how that area of the park should be managed and the resulting
environmental impacts. I also understand that the NPS and other federal
agencies have for decades regulated the use of lands where grizzly
bears are present, such as through food storage requirements and other
measures. Consequently, this planning effort would not set a new
precedent for other federal lands.
Question 42. What was the total cost of the 2007 transportation
FEIS in Grand Teton National Park?
Do you believe a new EIS less than 6 years from a comprehensive
FEIS that fully analyzed the same 8 miles is necessary?
In this case do you believe an environmental assessment is more
appropriate to study the road corridor?
Answer. I understand that the cost of the Grand Teton National Park
Transportation Plan/Environmental Impact Statement, completed in 2007,
was approximately $1 million. I also understand that, to expedite the
environmental review process and to limit costs, the NPS has decided to
conduct an EIS on the Moose-Wilson Road Corridor because the 2007
Transportation Plan did not evaluate that corridor in a comprehensive
manner, nor did it evaluate the issues that have emerged since 2007. I
support compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act in a
timely, transparent, and cost-effective fashion, and if confirmed I
will learn more about this issue.
Question 43. In 2012, Grand Teton National Park announced that the
Park would be closing the Moose-Wilson Road to one-way traffic without
any input from the gateway community. While this decision was
ultimately delayed by the Park Service, our small businesses and park
visitors still have public access concerns with the Park Service's
efforts to close the road. In 1977, at the request of the U.S.
government, Laurance S. Rockefeller granted an easement and right-of-
way for the Moose-Wilson Road for ``public and governmental use.''
Can you provide assurances that the Park Service will abide by this
easement to ensure that this road remains open for public access as Mr.
Answer. As I mentioned in my response above, I am unfamiliar with
the specifics of this issue. However, I appreciate the importance of
the local community's desire for public access, and believe that
community engagement is a necessary part of addressing this issue. I
understand that, regardless of actions that may be implemented in the
future as a result of the upcoming planning effort, the NPS intends
that its management of the Moose-Wilson Road will be consistent with
any legal requirements. If confirmed, I look forward to learning more
about this important issue.
Question 44. Mr. Connor, if confirmed as Deputy Secretary you would
be in a position to manage the various interests of the respective
agencies with the Department of the Interior. With your current
position in mind, how would you manage the different interests and
sometimes competing missions of the sister agencies within the
Department when making policy decisions? For example, in your view,
what role or influence should the National Park Service have as a
cooperating agency when the Bureau of Land Management is developing a
resource management plan for BLM lands?
Answer. With regard to use of the public lands, it is important to
get all interested stakeholders to the table to try and find common
ground. As I noted at my hearing, I believe we should take a balanced
approach to all the multiple uses of our public lands. I understand the
idea behind the cooperating agency role is to improve communication. I
believe such coordination is key to good decision-making, but it is
important to make clear the roles of cooperating agencies and the
various statutory and regulatory requirements applicable to the
Response of Michael L. Connor to Question From Senator Cantwell
Question 45. Commissioner Connor, this year the State of Washington
committed $137 million towards the Yakima Basin Water Enhancement Plan/
Yakima Basin Water Enhancement Project. This Plan was endorsed by the
Bureau of Reclamation in a Record of Decision issued earlier this year.
This project is very important to Washington State. Yakima Basin has
suffered two severe droughts since 2001 that resulted in $335 million
of economic damage as well as damage to fish and wildlife. The Basin is
home to an agriculture industry that generates more than $1 billion in
value and supports tens of thousands of jobs across Washington, from
fields to ports.
Can you commit, that if confirmed, you will work as hard as
possible to take the first step towards matching Washington State's
commitment to this project by significantly increasing the Departments
FY15 budget request for the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement
Answer. The Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan
is a basin-wide restoration plan collaboratively developed by diverse
stakeholders to benefit fish and improve water reliability. To date,
the Department has provided $3.8 million for Integrated Plan
activities. If FY 2014 appropriations are enacted consistent with the
President's request, the Integrated Plan and the Yakima River Basin
Water Enhancement Project will receive a total of $8 million in federal
funding in 2014, of which $1 million is targeted toward the Integrated
Plan. It is my understanding that the State legislation contemplates
matching funds compiled from local, private, and federal sources.
Reclamation's involvement in advancing many of the Integrated Plan
activities, including those that address additional surface water
storage, structural changes, and providing for downstream fish passage
at Cle Elum, would be dependent on legislation to provide authority
and/or additional cost ceiling. If confirmed, I will continue the
cooperative relationship with the State to collaboratively further the
goals of the Integrated Plan.
Responses of Michael L. Connor to Questions From Senator Flake
Question 46. Do you believe the Department of the Interior should
hold a public hearing in Arizona on the proposed Mexican wolf
rulemakings before the close of the current public comment period on
Answer. Public involvement is an essential part of the rulemaking
process, helping to inform both the agency and the affected public. I
understand that the Fish and Wildlife Service has received several
requests to hold a public hearing in Arizona and is considering when
and where it might be able to do so.
Question 47. During the hearing you stated that water leasing is
one of the most critical tools available to address water resource
issues in the West, as it could be used to ``maintain certainty and
reliability'' with respect to water use and power generation. Water,
however, is unlike other commodities; it plays a critical role in
essential human functions, while also serving as an important component
for agricultural and industrial uses. As such, it seems that any sort
of water marketing scheme would require minimum procedural safeguards.
What procedural safeguards should be considered when creating a water
Answer. There are a number of procedural safeguards that currently
exist with respect to water leasing. For example, state water rights
systems generally govern the timing, place and type of use of water,
and govern changes to the use of water rights arising under state law
to ensure that other water rights are not adversely affected. With
respect to Indian water rights settlements, federal statutory
safeguards exist. In addition, general Reclamation law, project-
specific statutes, and policy provide terms and conditions for water
leasing. For example, a 1920 statute provides authority to lease water
for various purposes and requires the current water users to approve
the lease. The existing array of federal and state law and policy
provides for the most part both the flexibility and necessary
protections to address water leasing. An example of a vibrant water
market is in northeastern Colorado, where the Northern Colorado Water
Conservancy District, the operating entity for Reclamation's Colorado-
Big Thompson Project, operates a water market with project water.
Question 48. Should the leasing of water rights be limited to use
within the watershed or basin of origin?
Answer. Numerous Reclamation projects provide for movement of water
from one watershed or basin to the next. This has been accomplished by
the stakeholders, the Department of the Interior, and Congress coming
together to reach consensus on when, and under what conditions, water
should move between watersheds and basins. State and federal law and
policy provide a framework that examines the specifics of a leasing
proposal to determine the feasibility of the proposal and any
protections that should be imposed to ensure that other interests are
not adversely affected.
Question 49. Should leasing of water rights only be permitted to
the extent that such rights have previously been beneficially used by
the water right holder and actual water use is verifiably reduced by
the water right holder (e.g., requiring fallowing or non-development
Answer. Protections appropriate for the specific project and
leasing arrangements normally are conditions of such leasing and are
determined pursuant to state and federal law, regulations and policy.
Question 50. Should a water marketing scheme differ depending on
the type or nature of the water right being marketed (e.g., surface
water, reserved rights, decreed rights, riparian water rights states,
prior appropriation rights, interstate transfers, etc.)?
Answer. As I noted in response to a previous question, appropriate
terms and conditions normally are included in water marketing/leasing
proposals to address specific issues and requirements of such
proposals, including compliance with applicable state and federal laws.
Question 51. If the marketed water right has a federal component
(e.g., Indian water rights) what role should the Secretary of the
Interior play in approving a water rights lease?
Answer. State and federal laws, regulations and policies govern the
Secretary's role in water leasing. The majority of the congressionally
approved Indian water rights settlements contain leasing provisions,
which often define the role of the Secretary of the Interior. However,
each marketing provision is unique, tailored to the agreements
negotiated among the parties on a case-by-case basis.
Question 52. What is the status of the Department of the Interior's
current effort to resolve the water rights dispute in the Bill Williams
Answer. The current discussions regarding the Bill Williams
watershed have been occurring within the framework of an Indian water
rights settlement process among the United States, the Hualapai Tribe,
and Freeport-McMoRan due to its copper mining operations at Bagdad,
Arizona. As committed to by Secretary Jewell during her confirmation
process, the Department is providing high-level leadership and
resources in all aspects of continuing negotiations to bring the
settlement to closure. If confirmed, I will continue to work with
Congress to resolve Indian water rights claims, including those related
to the Bill Williams watershed.
Question 53. While the Bill Williams negotiations are progressing,
are there any actions that can be taken at the local level to preserve
the anticipated environmental benefits without adding costs to the
multi-species conservation program?
Answer. The Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program
(LCR MSCP) is a multi-stakeholder program, including local entities,
which provides Endangered Species Act coverage for Reclamation's
ongoing and future river operations on the lower Colorado River. As the
implementing agency, Recreation is implementing the Habitat
Conservation Plan, which requires the establishment of over 8,100 acres
of riparian and aquatic habitat. Reclamation has been involved in the
Bill Williams River negotiations in the hope of securing Planet Ranch,
a property owned by Freeport-McMoRan, for LCR MSCP purposes.
Reclamation will continue to support the ongoing Bill Williams
negotiations and other LCR MSCP activities to meet remaining HCP
habitat requirements. If confirmed, I will continue to support
Reclamation's activities, which include working with local entities, to
implement this important HCP.
Responses of Michael L. Connor to Questions From Senator Schatz
Question 54. Mr. Connor, as you know, the Department of Interior is
pursuing a policy of fast-tracking the permitting of renewable energy
projects on public lands. The development of a clean energy economy and
deployment of renewable energy is a priority to me, and I am encouraged
to see the work being done at the Interior Department on this issue.
In federal waters as well, Interior has been moving in the right
direction, with the announcement two weeks ago of the completion of the
second competitive lease sale for renewable energy in public waters.
I would like to encourage you, in your new role, to build on this
good work, and to also ensure that proper permitting and environmental
oversight is not sacrificed as this fast-track process continues. I
would like to hear your thoughts on how the Department will balance the
benefits of increased renewable energy on public lands with the need to
maintain strict environmental oversight of these important resources.
Answer. I strongly support the President's vision for increasing
the generation of clean energy through responsible development of
renewable energy on the public lands and in federal waters. I also
understand the importance of mitigating adverse impacts associated with
renewable energy development. If confirmed, I will strongly support
ongoing efforts by the bureaus within the Department to promote the
environmentally-sound development of renewable energy, which will
continue to create new jobs, increase access to clean energy, and
reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Question 55. There has been a steady decline in the number of USGS
stream gauges in Hawaii over recent years. The number of active USGS
STREAM gauges in Hawai`i decreased from almost 200 in the late 1960s to
fewer than 50 in 2010. And according to the USGS web site, additional
gauges in Hawaii are threatened with closure. Maintaining a robust
stream gauge network in Hawaii is important due to many of the unique
aspects of our state, its hydrology, geography and our ongoing efforts
to monitor and assess impacts of climate change. As impacts of climate
variability and change are observed, long-term records of land and
ocean variables can help us identify shifts between average conditions
of the past and potential future condition. Long-term, reliable, global
and local observations of variables such as air temperature,
precipitation, sea-surface temperature, streamflow, and groundwater
supply are critical to understand the evolving state of the Earth's
climate. Having long term and high-quality scientific data is critical
not only for understanding the dynamics of natural processes but also
for ensuring the accuracy of models that simulate potential future
impacts of climate change and variability. Continuous data collection
and stewardship must be maintained to ensure that governments,
researchers, and the public have access to reliable, high-quality data.
Streams and rivers can flood very quickly in Hawaii, because when the
rain falls in the mountains, it often has to flow through cities and
populated areas to get to the ocean. The reduction in stream gauges
makes it harder for us to predict and react to such flooding. In
addition, numerous studies have shown declines in rainfall in Hawaii
over the last 100 years, with the trend accelerating in the last 30
years. Fresh water availability is a major issue in our state. Because
of Hawaii's geographic isolation, we do not have the option of piping
potable water in if we experience shortages. We need more monitoring
and data about our fresh water flows, not less. Will you commit to work
with me to reverse the decline in stream gauges in Hawaii and restore
some of the gauges that have closed in recent decades?
Answer. I agree with the importance of long-term records and the
value of USGS streamgaging for assessing flood hazards and water
availability in Hawaii. I am told that the USGS National Streamflow
Information Program has identified 21 streamgages in Hawaii to be
included in the federal-needs national streamgage network and has
increased the funding for these streamgages by over 21 percent from
2009 to 2012. Increasing the number of streamgages is a high priority
for the USGS, particularly those useful for observing long-term trends
related to climate change. I look forward to working with you to
explore possibilities for restoring recently discontinued USGS
streamgages in Hawaii so that water-resource managers have the
streamflow information they need to make informed decisions.
Question 56. There are several Bureau of Reclamation programs where
it is unclear based on available information whether these programs are
authorized for Reclamation states and territories under 43 U.S.C.
Sec. 391, only for states within Reclamation's service area, or for all
states. Examples of programs where eligibility is unclear include the
Cooperative Watershed Management Program, the Shared Investment Water
Innovation Program, and the Desalination and Water Purification
Research Program. Is Hawaii eligible for funding under these programs?
If eligibility for these programs is a matter of discretion for the
Interior Department, will you make Hawaii an eligible state?
Answer. Entities located in Hawaii are eligible to participate in
the Desalination and Water Purification Research Program and have
received at least one research grant in the past. Reclamation plans to
implement the Shared Investment Water Innovation Program, which is
proposed for funding for the first time in FY 2014, to include
applicants for research funding located across the United States.
Funding available for Reclamation's participation in the Cooperative
Watershed Management Program has been used to implement the first phase
of the program--to provide Reclamation funding for establishment or
expansion of watershed groups. Funding has been limited to the states
and territories identified under 43 U.S.C. Sec. 391, similar to
existing WaterSMART Grants funding opportunity announcements. If
confirmed I would be glad to work with the Committee to explore ways to
apply the use of the Department's resources and expertise to projects
Responses of Michael L. Connor to Questions From Senator Scott
Question 57. The Department of the Interior's current five-year
plan keeps 87 percent of our offshore acreage off limits to exploration
and production including areas off the coast of South Carolina. In
testimony before this Committee, when I asked Secretary Jewell about
Atlantic access and seismic she stated that Interior would consider
areas in the Atlantic for exploration activities if the data shows some
promise for resources. At the same time, Interior continues to delay
the process for getting the seismic data that will feed into the
leasing program. The process for approving seismic activity to gather
this data began in January 2009 and Interior has still not completed
its analysis nor made a decision, let alone issued a permit for seismic
research. What will you do to ensure these delays end and Interior
moves forward with permitting Atlantic seismic?
Answer. I am fully committed to working with the Bureau of Ocean
Energy Management and others to ensure that the Department actively
seeks and considers coastal states' interests as we analyze our leasing
decisions under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. I know that BOEM
has made significant progress in updating its resource estimates as
reflected in their 2011 National Resource Assessment. BOEM is
proceeding with a region-specific strategy in the area that focuses on
the need to update data in order to inform future decisions about
whether and, if so, where leasing would be appropriate.
Question 58. The recommendations adopted by the National Ocean
Policy Executive Order state that effective implementation will require
``clear and easily understood requirements and regulations, where
appropriate, that include enforcement as a critical component.'' In
addition, the Executive Order requires federal entities including DOI
to implement the policy to the fullest extent possible. At the same
time, the National Ocean Council has stated that the National Policy
``does not establish any new regulations or restrict any ocean uses or
activities'' What if any commitment can you make that DOI and its
affiliates will not issue any regulations or take any actions under the
National Ocean Policy (including coastal and marine spatial planning)
that could have a regulatory impact?
Question 59. If confirmed, can you pledge that DOI will comply with
the will and intent of Congress and not use the agency's human or
financial resources to further coastal and marine spatial planning?
Question 60. If confirmed, what will your role be in implementing
the National Ocean Policy?
Question 61. If confirmed, how many DOI and agency resources will
you dedicate to the National Ocean Policy?
Answer. To 58-61: It is my understanding that neither the National
Ocean Policy nor marine planning creates or changes regulations or
authorities. The final Implementation Plan was developed with extensive
stakeholder input and describes specific actions federal agencies will
take to address key ocean challenges, give states and communities
greater input in federal decisions, streamline federal operations, save
taxpayer dollars, and promote economic growth. The Implementation Plan
supports voluntary regional marine planning, which brings together
ocean users to share information to plan how we use, sustain and better
understand our ocean resources.
Interior manages vast coastal and ocean resources, which serve as a
foundation of our economy generating over $100 billion in economic
activity and supporting over two million jobs. If confirmed, I look
forward to working with Secretary Jewell and the team at Interior, to
implementing the NOP, and to better understanding this country's
challenges and opportunities relative to ocean resources across all
major sectors and uses. As the Department continues to support this
Administration's efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the health
of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems, I commit to promoting
coordination among agencies, sustained stakeholder engagement and
cooperation with this committee. I will work in partnership with the
Committee to ensure that any actions taken by the bureaus within
Interior are supported by sound science and transparency in our
decision-making. If confirmed, I will adhere to the Department's
commitment to implementing the President's Plan and I will keep you
fully informed as implementation progresses.
Responses of Michael L. Connor to Questions From Senator Manchin
Question 62. Do you think the Administration was correct in asking
a court to vacate the 2008 Stream Buffer rule, which was developed over
several years, with input from both industry and the environmental
community? If so, what do you think a new rule should look like?
Answer. I am not familiar with the specific history of this issue,
but I know it is an issue that is important to you. If confirmed, I
commit to learning more about it, and I would welcome the opportunity
to discuss the issue with you.
Question 63. In your opinion, what is the proper balance between
state and federal regulations?
Answer. In the context of the Department and its missions, the
proper balance between state, tribal, and federal regulations is one
that meets the interests of states, local communities, tribes, and
territories as well as the public owners of our federal resources and
the need for the Department and its bureaus to comply with statutory
mandates. I believe that this balance can be achieved through ongoing
dialogue with interested stakeholders and governments.
[Responses to the following questions were not received.
The nomination of Ronald J. Binz to be a Member of the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission for the term expiring June 30,
2018 was withdrawn by the President from further consideration
by the Senate on October 28, 2013].
Questions for Ronald J. Binz From Senator Manchin
Question 1. During the confirmation hearing I heard Chairman Wyden
express several times that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
(FERC) does not have authority to influence or dictate which fuels are
used to generate electricity and that the Commission has very limited
jurisdiction over electric generation. I believe you concurred. But are
there ways the FERC could establish transmission policies that would
afford preferences to one type of generation over another? For example,
could FERC policies allow for preference in using the grid or favorable
interconnection agreements for renewable energy?
Question 2. If confirmed, would you commit to policies that keep
the grid ``fuel neutral'', in line with the Chairman's assertion that
FERC should not pursue policies that dictate the fuel mix of
electricity generation or provide incentives for one source of energy
over another? Do you agree that FERC's principal concern should be to
ensure reliability of the grid regardless of the source of electrons
moving on it?
Question 3. If confirmed, do you intend to pursue policies that
would socialize the cost of transmission investments to favor renewable
energy projects, for example those in Renewable Energy Zones?
Question 4. In response to my statement that West Virginia is
getting the living daylights beaten out of it by anti-coal policies and
that you strongly favor renewables over other energy sources, you
stated at that ``I approved the largest coal plant that was ever built
in Colorado.'' Xcel Energy's Comanche 3 unit is the largest coal plant
in Colorado. That unit was approved by the Colorado Public Utilities
Commission in 2004, according to Xcel's website. You were not a member
of the Colorado PUC until 2007, according to your biography. In light
of questions that arose during the hearing about the accuracy of your
statements, I'd like to give you the opportunity to correct your
comments. The PUC approved a rate plan for the plant while you were on
the commission, but it is not accurate to say that you approved the
largest coal plant ever built in Colorado. Is that correct?
You described natural gas as ``the near perfect fuel for the next
couple of decades and if we perfect capture and sequestration of
carbon, it will be a permanently good fuel for this country's use.''
Is it then your view that carbon capture and sequestration is not
ready today for widespread deployment?
If we ``perfect'' carbon capture and sequestration, is coal ``a
permanently good fuel for this country's use?''
Question 5. When you were Chair of the Colorado Public Utility
Commission (PUC) you promoted a ``Clean Air, Clean Jobs'' act that
offered incentives for shutting down coal-fired power plants in favor
of natural gas generation. Xcel Energy reported that the total cost of
implementing the PUC plan was about $1 billion over seven years,
between building new natural gas plants, adding pollution controls to
some of the coal-fired plants, and shutting down six of the coal-fired
But from what I understand, this legislation was a bad deal for
consumers: it required greater reductions in emissions of NOX than even
what EPA regulations require--making it too expensive for coal plants
to possibly retrofit--and doesn't account for the potential for
increases in natural gas prices. It's projected to cost at least $1
billion over seven years, plus potentially more in fuel costs.
Isn't this just fuel-switching to natural gas, putting customers at
risk to higher prices by putting all of our eggs in one basket?
Wouldn't it have been possible to achieve reasonable reductions in
emissions while keeping fuel diversity, such as Utah did?
Question 6. I know that the ``Clean Air, Clean Jobs'' act was only
expected to increase residential electricity costs by 2% (not
accounting for natural gas price variability). However, it was
projected to increase prices for industrial electricity consumers by
Are you concerned about how policies such as this will affect our
nation's economic competitiveness?
Question 7. I recently met with FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller,
and he described himself as ``source neutral, not reliability
neutral.'' I've heard in the news and from colleagues that you've said
that ``natural gas is a dead end fuel'' and your record in Colorado
points to you promoting the move away from coal. Would you promote
moving away from these fuels at the expense of reliability? Do you
expect that the increased use of intermittent fuels like solar and wind
are going to impact reliability?
Question 8. You have said--on multiple occasions-that with the
right regulatory policies in place it is possible to increase
renewables to 80% of total energy usage by 2050. You have also
suggested that this country should pursue this 80% regardless of cost.
I support coal. Coal is inexpensive and reliable; renewables are costly
and less reliable.
a. Do you plan to push for 80% renewables by 2050 through your
position as a FERC Commissioner?
b. We don't have a federal renewable portfolio standard. Congress
hasn't enacted one. Shouldn't the generation mix be left to the market
unless Congress intervenes?
c. What limits should there be on impacts of this goal on costs or
other impacts to consumers and the economy?
Question 9. The Denver Post of February 19, 2011 says you are ``on
record as favoring steadily rising rates as a vital feature of the New
Energy Economy.'' Is this true? Is your view that higher rates from
renewable energy are better than lower rates from coal? Subject to what
limits, if any?
Question 10. What role do you see for base load generating units
such as coal and nuclear units? Should they receive any special
emphasis in our policy since they are essential to reliability?
Question 11. What role do coal, natural gas, and nuclear power have
in America's energy future?