Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher's e-Newsletter, May 23
Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher's e-Newsletter
May 23, 2002
Pick of the week:
Chabot Space and Science Center, on Skyline Blvd. in the Oakland Hills, is a state-of-the-art learning center devoted to astronomy with a planetarium, 70-foot dome-screen theatre, hilltop observatory, and many hands-on exhibits. "Spaceflight: Journey to the Stars," allows visitors to discover the past, present, and future of human space travel. You can climb into a space capsule, land a lunar module on the moon, take a tour of the solar system, and learn first-hand how astronauts deal with weightlessness and what it's like to wear a spacesuit. This new exhibit is open through June 9. For more information: www.chabotspace.org
Ellen votes to move forward on the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository
Ellen voted for H.J.Res. 87 on May 8, which passed the House by a vote of 306-117. If the Senate approves the resolution, the project can apply for final approval before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with construction starting in 2005.
The prospect of having to store nuclear waste anywhere, no matter how remote, is unpleasant, but delaying tough decisions won't make the waste go away. These are the facts that guided Ellen in her vote:
Most of the waste already exists, but without a proper repository, it is being stored in warehouses and nuclear facilities spread across 131 locations in 39 states. A centralized storage facility would be more secure and have the resources and expertise to manage the waste as safely as possible.
Yucca has unique characteristics that make it an ideal setting for nuclear waste: its remote location and long distance from a large population center, its very dry climate (less than 6 inches of rainfall per year), and its extremely deep water table (800 to 1,000 feet below the level of the proposed repository).
The site has probably been studied more extensively than any other piece of land on Earth. Over the past 20 years, some of the world's best scientists have collected more than 75,000 feet of core, taken 18,000 geologic and water samples, and conducted the largest test in history to simulate effects of the repository. Congress did not restrict study to Yucca for political reasons; it did so after years of comparisons with other sites. Yucca always ranked the best of sites in nine states.
Some Californians have raised legitimate concerns about the possibility of waste being transported through the state on its way to Yucca. The specific routes have not yet been planned, but the fact remains that nuclear waste is already transported on a regular basis. Since 1965, government and industry groups have transported more than 2,700 shipments of high-level nuclear waste over more than 1.6 million miles. No nuclear fuel container has ever leaked or cracked in any way.
Ellen will continue to monitor the progress of the Yucca Mountain project and insist that the record of careful work with full public disclosure continues. For more detailed information about the project, see www.ymp.gov/new/faq.pdf
Transportation technology experts to gather in Concord
As a founder and co-chair of the Congressional Intelligent Transportation Caucus, Ellen is working to include technological solutions in the reauthorization of the major surface transportation legislation, TEA-21, which expires next year. Intelligent Transportation Systems, or ITS, can reduce congestion and increase the security of America's transportation network.
Ellen will speak to experts from around the world about her work at the ITS Technology Security Summit at the Concord Hilton on May 28 and 29. She will also review exhibits and talk to inventors about how to deploy cutting-edge technologies.
To learn more about intelligent transportation systems, see http://www.house.gov/tauscher/press/03-06-02-2.htm
Local artist to be featured in U.S. Capitol
Ellen congratulates the winners of her 10th congressional district high school art competition. First place went to Elyse Barmettier of Liberty High School in Brentwood, with "Sunshine." Elyse and her family will fly to Washington, DC to see her work hung in the U.S. Capitol. Ryan Lum of Campolindo High School in Moraga won second place, with "Egret by Pond." His work will be displayed in Ellen's Washington, DC office. Third place went to Brian Whipp of Campolindo. His work, "Graveyard Shift," will be featured in Ellen's Walnut Creek office. Honorable Mentions went to Katie Hellier of Liberty High and David Camlin of Monte Vista High School in Alamo.
When no answer won't suffice
Ellen has been working with Department of Energy (DOE) officials since January to cut through senseless red tape affecting Lawrence Livermore Lab. The lab has been forced to store drums of radioactive waste under open-air tents, despite having a state-of-the-art $62 million building specifically designed to treat and store such waste. DOE approved construction of the building, but later decided that it is "inadequate." The implicit suggestion that keeping the waste under tents is safer for workers and the public than in this new building is outrageous.
After five months of delays and conflicting answers, Ellen has asked the investigative arm of Congress, the General Accounting Office, to investigate this wasteful situation.
In the House:
Welfare bill passed by House sets new requirements but gives no way to meet them
Ellen is a strong supporter of reforming welfare and believes the federal government should help states move people from welfare to work. Last week, she voted against a bill that would have required welfare recipients to work 40 hours a week, but would not have provided states with the money to make such changes possible, like help with child care and transportation costs. In California alone, this would have stuck the state with a $2.5 billion mandate from the federal government with no money to make it possible. The bill passed 229-197.
Instead, she voted for an alternative that would have given states more freedom to decide how to get people off welfare, adequately funded child care, and allowed education and training to count toward welfare recipients' work requirement.
First step to cleaning up security and service nightmare at the INS
Overhauling the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is a post-September 11 fix needed as urgently as enhanced airport security. The stories of virtually no follow-up with visa holders, no cross-checking of CIA and FBI databases, and visa extensions mailed to terrorists are well known. Equally as egregious are stories of legal immigrants, bi-national spouses, and citizen hopefuls wasting their time and money to fight an unruly bureaucracy.
Ellen proudly voted for legislation that would abolish the INS and replace it with two agencies to directly address the conflicting challenges of security and customer service.
The Immigration Reform and Accountability Act of 2002 would transfer all enforcement responsibilities, including border security, detention, and deportation, to a new Associate Attorney General for Immigration Affairs. Customer service and application processing would be handled by a separate Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 405-9 on April 25, and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
A voice of reason in the water wars
The debate over reauthorizing CalFed has dragged on for years, to the advantage of extreme agricultural and anti-environment interests. On May 2, Ellen introduced CalFed legislation to bring the debate back to the center. Her bill, the CalFed Bay-Delta Authorization Act, is similar to the Feinstein-Boxer bill in the Senate. It would ensure a high quality, reliable water supply for people in urban and suburban areas while setting aside enough water to protect the environment and restore the Bay-Delta ecosystem.
This careful balance would be achieved with advanced technology such as water recycling, desalination, conservation, and sound groundwater management. The bill marks a significant departure from Rep. Ken Calvert's bill, which guarantees specific amounts of water deliveries for certain agricultural districts at the expense of deliveries to the environment, suburban, and urban users.
Ellen will press the House Leadership to bring her bill to a vote by June. To learn more about CalFed, visit www.house.gov/tauscher/press/05-02-02-2.htm.
Working toward a stronger defense without increasing the nuclear threat
While Ellen voted for the Department of Defense Authorization Act of 2003 because of its increased funding for the war against terrorism and pay increases for our men and women in uniform, she is very concerned about the stance taken by the Bush administration and House Republicans on nuclear policy.
Ellen sought to offer three amendments to balance the bill. One passed the House by an overwhelming voice vote; however, she was disappointed that the Rules Committee, by a party-line vote, did not allow her other two amendments to come to the floor for votes by the House. The successful amendment instructs the Pentagon to clarify its proposed weapons reductions and the timetable for disarming them. It is in response to alarming revelations last year that the Bush administration does not plan to dismantle nuclear weapons removed from the stockpile.
Ellen's other amendments would have:
encouraged the President to reduce the nuclear weapons stockpile to the lowest level possible, consistent with national security;
removed language encouraging the development of "bunker-buster" nuclear weapons and instead called for better conventional weapons and intelligence;
removed language calling for the resumption of live nuclear testing (which the U.S. has refrained from since the first Bush administration in 1992) and instead emphasized the importance of the Stockpile Stewardship Program, which allows the national labs to certify the safety and reliability of the country's nuclear weapons without live testing;
redirected a small part of the large increase in National Missile Defense spending to a program to secure nuclear facilities in countries like India and Pakistan.
Ellen will be working to include these provisions in the legislation as it moves through the Senate and conference committee. Many of these amendments are part of her comprehensive nuclear security bill, the Nuclear Threat Reduction Act (H.R. 4624). For more about H.R. 4624, see www.house.gov/tauscher/press/04-24-02.htm.
Ellen got $5 million in the defense spending bill to construct six new classrooms at Chabot Space and Science Center. Other provisions Ellen secured in the bill include a pilot program for military members to vote electronically when they are stationed overseas. Click here to learn more: www.house.gov/tauscher/press/05-09-02.htm.
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Run dates: 2002-05-23 - 2002-06-12