WASHINGTON, DC – Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (R-OR) delivered the following remarks at an Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee markup today of 15 bills to address key environmental problems of the past, present, and future.
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Mr. Chairman for recognizing me. As Mr. Shimkus mentioned, we have an aggressive and full agenda for today on several issues of importance to our members and this committee.
Today, we are considering a bill to close the book on environmental problems of the past, bills to address environmental problems of the present, and a bill to avoid environmental problems long into the future.
The first bill I’d like to address is H.R. 1603, a bill to ban the manufacture, import, processing, and movement in commerce of asbestos, and mixtures and articles containing asbestos. Not only do I know that this bill is important for Ms. Bonamici and Senator Merkley from my home state of Oregon, but also Chairman Pallone.
I support the intent of the legislation, but as I mentioned at the subcommittee hearing, I have concerns about implementation of this legislation and how some of these standards will be interpreted. I appreciate and thank the Chairmen of the full and subcommittee for their courtesies in working with us on this bill. Our talks have been productive, and staff has made real progress in negotiating a compromise to this bill. While we are not yet there, we are getting close, and I hope we are able to get to something that will address concerns that many people have voiced about asbestos.
The second set of bills scheduled for today relates to highly fluorinate chemicals. I know your experience in New York, Mr. Chairman, as well as the experiences of the Michigan delegation, and Mr. Hudson in North Carolina have driven intense interest in preventing and addressing PFAS contamination. In Oregon, the Air National Guard at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls has used foam with PFAS to fight fires in my congressional district as well as two other sites in the state.
I want to work to address the concerns about the uncertainties that PFAS presents. The test for me in addressing PFAS contamination is not the number of bills we pass. Rather, it is whether the response we provide can be a reasonable, reliable, and responsible remedial effort that gets help to people sooner rather than later – and without detours to the courthouse. We need a common-sense approach that can become law.
Finally, let me turn to H.R. 2699, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2019. Mr. Chairman, this legislation reflects how this committee can work on thoughtful policy, in complex areas, and remain focused on sound science and the national interest.
As we all know, the Federal government has been unable to complete the safety licensing process for a permanent repository at Yucca Mountain. The costs to the American taxpayer to pay for the federal government’s delay in opening the Yucca Mountain repository have more than doubled to $35 billion since 2009 and that figure continues to escalate rapidly as time goes on.
We also know how a thoughtful and deliberate legislative process produces good legislation. This is reflected in HR 2699, led by Mr. McNerney, which follows closely the text developed in H.R. 3053 from the last Congress, led by my friend and long-time champion of this issue, John Shimkus.
This bill would accelerate the interim storage of waste without undermining the important system for permanent disposal established in the underlying law. This represents the best path forward for getting the nation to a decision on safety licensing, which is necessary for public understanding of the science and engineering behind the Yucca site and for confidence in our nuclear waste program.
Ensuring the safe disposal of high-level radioactive waste is critical for public health and maintaining the many important benefits of nuclear energy in this nation. I urge all members to support it.