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3/18/11 by Oregon U.S. Congressman Greg Walden, Oregon's 2nd District



The House Energy and Commerce Committee heard from both the Secretary of Energy and the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week regarding the situation at the nuclear power plants in Japan. In fact, our hearing was interrupted so that the NRC Chairman could go meet with the President.  When he returned, he announced that the U.S. was recommending a 50-mile evacuation zone around the plant for U.S. citizens.

America relies on power from 104 nuclear reactors and we need to learn from the extraordinary situation in Japan to make sure that we don’t face a similar circumstance. Meanwhile, early this morning in Medford I spent 15 minutes talking with Jack Fuller, the CEO of GE Hitachi Nuclear, designer of the Mark1, GE’s containment system in Boiling Water Reactors (BWR). GE has 32 BWR Mark 1 reactors operating as designed worldwide and they have a proven track record of safety and reliability for over 40 years. They were commercialized 40 years ago, but have continued to evolve with technological and safety updates to meet regulatory requirements.

The damaged Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant in Japan (Operated by TEPCO) has Mark 1 containment systems in use at the reactors.

Fuller told me the units shut down as planned after the earthquake and that the back up diesel power systems turned on as planned and worked properly for about half an hour, until the tsunami hit the plant.  He said the tsunami was twice the size of anything that had been thought possible. When the tsunami hit, it wiped out the diesel fuel supply, the diesel generator and the electrical switching equipment. However, no reactor building were breached, he said. 

Their focus now, as we all know, is on the #4 power unit’s cooling pool. The Japanese now say that the #4 cooling pool is not dry, as the U.S. NRC administrator told us earlier this week, but the wall may have suffered damage. At the time of the earthquake the #4 unit was shut down for maintenance. Instead of having 400 rods in the storage pool, it contained 1,200 nuclear rods, making the situation even more dangerous.

Our Energy and Commerce Committee will continue to closely review the situation in Japan as we evaluate our nuclear power plants here.

Continuing the work to get spending under control

This week the House of Representatives once more took the lead to avoid a government shutdown while reducing government spending at the same time.

This marks the third time that House Republicans have advanced to keep the government running while reducing spending, and it means that we’ve passed into law $10 billion in cuts in just five weeks.

A month ago, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, a long-term plan to fund the federal government for the rest of the year while cutting $100 billion compared to President Obama’s FY11 budget request. The Senate has not been able to pass a spending measure for the rest of the fiscal year, so the government is forced to operate on these short-term funding measures.

Let’s remember why this is an important debate. The less money the federal government spends, the more is available to create jobs. Stanford economist John Taylorsaid that the House bill, H.R. 1, “will increase economic growth and employment as the federal government begins to put its fiscal house in order and encourage job-producing private sector investment.”

The American people were clear when they demanded a new direction last November. They’re tired of the budget gimmicks and overspending of the past and they’re looking for Congress to take real action to get our country back on a path to a better future.

I fundamentally believe that Americans work too hard and send too much in taxes to Washington to only see so much of it going to waste. I’ve told you this before – most businesses and families have had to tighten their belts. Washington should too.

What’s at stake? A future for our children that’s free of crushing taxes or indebtedness to China. The House has been hard at work all year long to get the spending under control. We need partners now in the Senate and the administration.

Progress on getting our heroes off the streets in central Oregon

You may recall from an earlier newsletter the disturbing story of how a lumbering bureaucracy prevented the timely distribution of housing vouchers to homeless veterans in central Oregon before the onset of winter. One central Oregon veteran whose move-in was delayed months because of the VA’s inability to hire a caseworker received serious burns in an accident in his tent when he tried to stay warm using his only source of heat — a propane cooker.

I have better news to pass along today. Thanks to the good reporting of the Bulletin, the work of central Oregon veterans advocacy organizations, and pressure I applied on the VA, work has been underway in earnest to put a roof over these veterans’ heads.

Of the 25 vouchers available in central Oregon, 21 have been distributed, and veterans are getting off the streets. And while some of the routine move-in costs are not covered by the voucher program, an anonymous donor stepped up and contributed $5,000 toward fees like security deposits. Thanks to all in the community who have helped turn the story around in central Oregon.

Voting to protect jobs and prevent even higher gas prices

Gas prices remain high, yet the Environmental Protection Agency continues to pursue regulations that would make energy even more expensive than it already is.

On Tuesday I voted in the Energy and Commerce Committee for legislation that would prevent the EPA from doing by rule what the Congress decided not to do by law: impose costly new CO2 regulations on the American people and those who are trying to create private sector jobs

Unless Congress intervenes, the EPA’s efforts to unilaterally impose a cap-and-trade agenda threaten to drive gas prices even higher, increase utility rates, send manufacturing jobs overseas, and hamstring our economic recovery. The bill — the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 — passed the Energy and Commerce Committee with a bipartisan vote and makes clear that Congress never intended the Clean Air Act to cover CO2 emissions.

Gasoline prices are already nearing $4.00/gallon and any further constraints on our domestic energy capacity or self-imposed increases on the costs of production will drive prices at the pump even higher.  Studies have estimatedthat previous legislative efforts to cap greenhouse gas emissions would drive up gas prices 19 cents by 2015 and 95 cents in 2050. Because EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations are designed to achieve similar goals as cap-and-trade legislation, and because such regulations would directly impact domestic refineries and production, the regulations are similarly expected to drive up the price of gasoline.

The legislation now awaits a vote by the full House of Representatives. The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 would:

  • Stop EPA bureaucrats from making legislative decisions that should be made by Congress
  • Clarify that the Clean Air Act was not written by Congress to address climate change
  • Stop EPA bureaucrats from imposing a backdoor cap-and-trade tax that would make gasoline, electricity, fertilizer, and groceries more expensive for consumers
  • Protect American jobs and manufacturers from overreaching EPA regulations that hinder our ability to compete with China and other countries

To view “The Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011,” click HERE.

Oregonians in the nation’s capital

It was a privilege to meet with a great group of Americans and Oregonians this week: the wildland firefighters of the National Wildfire Suppression Association (NWSA). We had firefighters from Redmond, Merlin, Sisters, and Bend, to name a few, in the nation’s capital this week.

We’re lucky to have Rick Dice of Redmond currently serving as the association’s president. Let’s face it, these guys and gals are heroes to many rural communities, often laying it all on the line to protect life and property.

Oregonians from all corners of the Second District came through the office in the last few days, from Boardman, La Grande, North Powder, Klamath Falls, Hood River, Pendleton, Maupin, The Dalles, Central Point, Enterprise, and Vale.

And I even got the chance to meet with the students from Cove and Union Middle Schools on the steps of the Capitol.

That’s all for now. I’ll be in southern Oregon today visiting for meetings and public events at Hoover Elementary and meeting with our country’s future leaders at the Boy Scouts planning meeting and the Oregon FFA State Convention. Then it’s on to Heppner tomorrow for the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Hope you have a great weekend. 

Best regards,
Greg Walden

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              Page Updated: Tuesday March 22, 2011 01:58 AM  Pacific

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