Energy Politics is Often More About Location than Party
The Morning Consult has an intriguing article titled Map: State Energy Influence in Washington. The article briefly describes how states that produce various energy fuels have senators and congressmen that migrate to committees that affect the industry in their home territories.
It also mentions the curiously large influence that Massachusetts has on energy policy making. Even without any congressmen or senators on key committees and without any large energy corporations in the state, it is the home of the Secretary of Energy, the EPA Administrator, and the acting Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) chairman.
Aside: Someday I will get around to describing how Massachusetts evolved from being recognized as the most enthusiastic nuclear energy pioneering state to one of the more antinuclear states in the union. My current research traces the beginning of that transition to the 1960 decision of Senator John F. Kennedy to select Senator Lyndon B. Johnson as a running mate, partially to gain access to his natural gas industry campaign contributors. End Aside.
Here is a quote from the article that stimulated me to add a comment:
States also benefit from having representatives in important leadership positions that don’t relate primarily to energy. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, for example, has used his influence to redirect a nuclear waste storage site away from his home state and push to appoint a FERC chairman from his region.
Here is the comment I submitted, which may or may not appear on the original site.
Interesting analysis, but you minimized the influence that Senator Reid has had on recent energy policy decisions.
Here are the specific actions that Senator Reid has taken to hamstring the continued operation and future development of nuclear energy.
He personally intervened and delayed numerous judge confirmations in order to install one of his staff members as a commissioner on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
He then included a demand for promotion of that staff member to the Chairmanship of the NRC as part of the price for his support of Senator Obama’s election to President.
During his 7 years and 2 months on the NRC, Greg Jaczko, the former Reid staff member, led the effort to write a new rule requiring nuclear power plants to be able to withstand direct attack by large aircraft and new interpretations of enforcement for fire protection rules.
He used the events at Fukushima to take total control of the NRC for about half a year and implemented several negative policies unilaterally.
His illegal action – under Senator Reid’s direction – to halt the completion of licensing review for the Yucca Mountain project not only deflected that project from being completed in Nevada, but it called into question a whole series of actions under the category of “waste confidence.”
Eliminating “waste confidence” led to a 2 year moratorium on both new nuclear power plant licenses and extensions of existing licenses. It has also ensured that states whose statutes include a provision prohibiting new nuclear plants until the waste issue is settled at the federal level would continue waiting.
After Jaczko was asked to resign because of the “chilled work environment” that he established as Chairman, Senator Reid once again dictated the selection of the new Chairman, a woman who had no experience in managing any agency or even a work group of more than a few academics.
The serving members of the Commission were passed over as the new member was directly appointed as Chairman.
The new Chairman has led an effort to require most of the existing nuclear plants in the US to conduct expensive and scarce resource consuming evaluations of their seismic design, even though there has never been a nuclear plant whose seismically qualified safety-related structures, systems and components have been damaged by an earthquake – even one that exceeded the plant’s design basis.
Energy politics is financially important. Halting or even delaying nuclear energy projects invariably increases the sales revenues of all other energy sources by restricting the overall supply of energy. In each case, there is usually a specific fuel supplier who benefits more directly to the tune of a million or more dollars in additional revenue for every day that a 1000 MWe nuclear plant does not operate.
Publisher, Atomic Insights
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Rod Adams gained his nuclear knowledge as a submarine engineer officer and as the founder of a company that tried to develop a market for small, modular reactors from 1993-1999. He began publishing Atomic Insights in 1995 and began producing The Atomic Show Podcast in March 2006. Following his Navy career and a three year stint with a commerical nuclear power plant design firm, he began ...
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