COLUMN: Energy Secretary Visit Highlights Importance of Hydropower, Our National Lab, and Hanford Cleanup
In January, as soon as it became clear that former Texas Governor Rick Perry would serve as the next U.S. Secretary of Energy, I extended an invitation to him to visit Central Washington. Last week, I was pleased to welcome Secretary Perry to learn more about the contributions our community has made to our history and continues to make for our future as a country.
Our first stop was a visit to McNary Lock and Dam on the Columbia River. As a former governor of Texas, Secretary Perry has a deep understanding of energy, but he wanted to learn more about how our region’s unique hydropower resources contribute to a national “all of the above” energy strategy. The Department of Energy owns the Bonneville Power Administration, which is the nonprofit federal power marketing administration that draws power from many of the dams in the Pacific Northwest, including McNary Dam. I have made very clear to the administration how important it that BPA not be divested so that it can continue to provide affordable electricity for ratepayers – especially those in rural areas.
Next, we headed up to the Tri-Cities to visit two of the most important sites run by the U.S. Department of Energy: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Secretary Perry has referred to our National Lab system as the Department of Energy’s “crown jewel,” and I was proud to show him the important mission being accomplished by researchers at our very own Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). PNNL researchers are major contributors to advances in energy grid reliability and security, cyber security, nuclear non-proliferation, technology used for airport scanners, cost-saving energy efficiency, and many other areas. PNNL also employs more than 4,000 people in our area, so I was pleased that the Secretary was able to see the many research benefits provided by the Lab.
The scale of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation—about half the size of the state of Rhode Island—is such that it must be seen in person. That is why it was so important for Secretary Perry to visit the site. I was glad that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), who is a strong proponent of continuing Yucca Mountain as the nation’s repository for defense high-level waste, was also on our site tour. I have made clear that federal support for cleanup must be strong because it is not optional. The federal government has a legal and moral obligation to our community. Hanford’s historic legacy has been the work that brought an end to World War II as part of the Manhattan Project and then winning the Cold War. The next Hanford legacy will be one of overcoming incredible engineering challenges to safely remediate the nation’s largest and most complex defense nuclear cleanup site.
In Congress, I advocate for the clean, renewable energy provided by our region’s dams, the critical research benefits of our Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the federal government’s commitment to continuing effective cleanup efforts at Hanford. Secretary Perry’s visit underlines the importance of the Energy Department’s role in Central Washington.