1. Let’s talk a little bit about the new Presidential administration and what impact it might have on the energy industry. President Trump has talked about significant changes to energy policy under his administration. One area in particular that he’s talked about is helping America achieve energy independence. That’s something that you’ve championed in your time in Congress. Are you encouraged by what he’s said about the future of U.S. energy?
I’m very encouraged by what the President and his administration, including Administrator Pruitt and Secretary Perry, have said on energy policy. Both Congress and the President put an early emphasis on repealing excessive and overly burdensome regulations, particularly for domestic energy producers, and I think that has been a positive signal to businesses and innovators that this administration is going to be more supportive of our domestic industries in order to gain overall energy independence. When we talk about energy independence, we are talking about energy security, which requires diverse sources of energy, including traditional fossil fuels, renewables, and nuclear, and requires modern, safe, and efficient energy delivery infrastructure. There are significant opportunities in these areas to work with President Trump and his administration.
2. You’ve been a long-time supporter of an all-of-the-above approach to energy policy. Whether it’s more nuclear power, clean coal, allowing for more energy exploration or focusing on energy efficiency, you have been a leader in Congress. Reinvesting and reinvigorating the energy industry, particularly coal and nuclear, is something that the President talked about extensively on the campaign trail. What are some of the challenges and opportunities in making this a reality?
There are a number of challenges facing the energy industry, particularly for those of us who believe we need a true “all-of-the-above” policy. For the past eight years, we’ve had certain types of energy production strongly favored over others. While I support the increased use of renewable energy and have been impressed by the growth of wind, solar, and hydropower, we must ensure we’re utilizing our existing energy infrastructure and not valuing the growth of certain types of energy to the detriment of others, such as nuclear power. I was especially encouraged that the President’s proposed budget included $120 million to restart licensing activities at Yucca Mountain. This is an immensely important step in a long overdue process.
3. Another thing the administration has talked about is a big investment in infrastructure. Do you think that pipeline construction might play into that plan?
The Trump administration has rightfully put an emphasis on our nation’s infrastructure. While the details of this plan are still being worked out, I think energy infrastructure, including pipelines, transmission, and other grid components needs to be central. The President has already shown a willingness to take decisive action on the Keystone and Dakota Pipelines, but there is also an opportunity for Congress to support other smaller projects by streamlining the permitting process overall. I am especially hopeful that when it comes to energy infrastructure, the administration will see the value of Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) and Utility Energy Service Contracts (UESCs), so we can leverage private investment into modern infrastructure that do not require appropriated dollars, while also saving taxpayers money through lower electricity and water bills at federal buildings.
4. As the 115th Congress has taken shape, what are you targeting as some of your top priorities on the energy front?
We will have a number of great opportunities to support smart energy policies, including in larger legislative initiatives like tax reform or an infrastructure package. However, my top priority is H.R. 1320, the NUKE Act, which I introduced with Congressman Mike Doyle to put sensible price caps on Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fees to licensees and to streamline NRC processes to pave the way for the next generation of nuclear power. Clean, reliable, baseload nuclear power is vital to not only my district and home state of Illinois, but also our entire nation. Additionally, I will continue supporting improvements in energy efficiency and the use of ESPCs and UESCs, particularly in the federal government which currently consumes around 25% of electricity nationwide.
5. You have new leadership on the Committee on Energy and Commerce with Representative Greg Walden having earned the chairmanship. Have you had a chance to talk with Representative Walden since his election and what do you expect from his leadership?
I’ve enjoyed working with Representative Walden in the past and am excited to continue our work together now that he is Chairman of Energy and Commerce. He has already shown that he will be a strong leader for our committee, as can be evidenced by the record-breaking, 28-hour healthcare markup that took place earlier this year. I think it bodes well for our Chairman’s commitment and tenacity, which will be needed as we tackle the broad range of issues under Energy and Commerce’s jurisdiction.