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.

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights

About Rod Adams

8 Responses to “Energy politics is often more about location than party”

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  1. Frank Jablonski says:

    If there is any kind of deity, may s/he bless you and your family for your diligence, insight and courage. Great comment.

  2. Rick Armknecht says:

    Your letter’s reference to “waste confidence” and opposition to Yucca Mountain brings to mind a rather simple medium-term solution to Spent Nuclear Fuel in the US. The SNF is a superior fuel to unenriched Uranium and could be used in a CANDU reactor. The process to transform spent LWR fuel into fuel for a CANDU could be very simple — involving absolutely NO “reprocessing” step.
    The availability in the US of “free” fuel for CANDU reactors, the geographical proximity of the US and Canada, the political interest in moving SNF out of the US (even if it is for 40 years or so for use and cool down), and just plain old common sense begs the question: “Why not” (especially as DUPIC fuel concepts have been around for decades).
    I know that you are good at looking at these matters by asking the question: “Who benefits?” and the only answer I can give to that is: “Uranium mining companies.”

  3. Cpragman says:

    I don’t see your comment on their site.
    Is it just me?

    • Rod Adams says:


      It’s not just you. Moderation at Morning Consult might be slow because of the holiday weekend. It is also quite possible that my comment was rejected for any number of reasons, including being too long. I don’t take that personally, I don’t see any comments attached to the article on which I submitted my comment.

      The fact that others might not publish what I compose is one of the reasons that I often share my submitted comments here. The practice also gives me a searchable record here of comments that I have submitted elsewhere and allows me to control their longevity on the web. (I’m a packrat; nearly every post I have ever written is still freely available through the Archive page and via search.)

  4. Tim Wyant says:

    The list of congressmen from each state on the various energy committees is interesting. The more I read and learn about how these committees work, the less I like what I see. Being on active duty currently and knowing many college classmates, friends, and fellow soldiers that need quality healthcare, I have paid some attention to the current disaster that is the VA healthcare system. I found an article recently that did a fantastic job of linking the access to lobbyists and campaign cash to committee assignments. One does not need a very creative mind to imagine that campaign money, much more so that good science, is a big reason why our energy policy is what it is.

    • poa says:

      “One does not need a very creative mind to imagine that campaign money, much more so that good science, is a big reason why our energy policy is what it is”

      Just energy policies? Its my contention that the corruption you describe is woven through the fabric of all our policies, domestic and foreign. Both parties are in the pockets of special interests, and it is a corruption one must indulge in if aspiring to high office. It is not unreasonable to state that special interests, through their powerful lobbying machines, have more power than the ballot box does. And often, such as in the case of energy policy, or especially foreign policy, these special interests lobby successfully for policies that go AGAINST our national best interests.

  5. James Greenidge says:

    A must read for pro-nukers:

    A propetic article on a man that Greens are trying to label as a dottering has-been. One of his best lines is laced with disbelief and anguish:

    “…I asked representatives of the nuclear industry why they didn’t have full-page advertisements about the safety of nuclear energy, because they have good evidence for it. And they said, “We’d love to, but we are really only a cottage industry and we don’t have the money.”

    The whole nuclear community hasn’t the bucks for Ads that Puppy Rescue and taxi companies and pizza joints regularly do.


    Don’t deserve to go extinct!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  6. publius says:

    I’ve been known to tell people that my political position on energy is based on the fact that I live downwind from a 2200 MW atomic powerplant, & upwind from a 1187 MW lignite burner — and daily thank God that it’s not the other way around!

    And, no, the upcoming conversion to burn Wyoming coal doesn’t make things better. There’s already a hundred-car train going past my house every day on its way Southward, & the equivalent empty train coming Northward. That traffic ensures poor on-time performance by the railways, which means that valuable freight goes by truck rather than rail, leading to road traffic congestion, delays, increased fuel cost, air pollution, injury & fatal accidents, lost work, & radiation exposure from medical radiographs.