Last night U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis secured language in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill to strengthen the Department of Energy’s legal obligation to consider the health of the United States’ uranium mining industry as it seeks to dispose of excess uranium. Under the Lummis language, a ten percent drop in the price of uranium would invalidate the Department’s standing uranium transfer authority, forcing the agency to undergo additional analysis of whether the federal transfers are hurting uranium miners and other domestic uranium industries.
Additionally, the House unanimously adopted by voice vote a Lummis Amendment blocking funding for Department actions that adversely impact the domestic uranium industry or fail to comply with public notice and comment requirements that bind all federal agencies.
Current law prohibits the Secretary of Energy from transferring uranium unless the Secretary determines the transfer will not adversely impact the domestic uranium mining, conversion, and enrichment industries, all of which are crucial to the uranium supply chain that feeds our nation’s nuclear power plants. However, these secretarial determinations have not fully reflected the true damage inflicted on Wyoming’s uranium miners when the federal government dumps large amounts of uranium on the market.
These secretarial determinations have also been plagued by a lack of transparency. A June 9, 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has documented shortcomings in the Department’s analysis of impacts on the domestic uranium market, including a failure to adequately consult with the uranium miners and others in the industry.
“The secretarial determination is supposed to be a safeguard so the government doesn’t abuse its enormous assets and crush domestic industries, but the whole process has turned into a sham,” said Rep. Lummis. “The Department’s own commissioned market analysis confirms that the next round of transfers will cause job losses in Wyoming and elsewhere, but instead of scaling back the transfers the Administration is moving forward based on mysterious ‘other information and analysis’ they have chosen not to make public.
“Wyoming has the largest uranium deposits in the U.S. and hard-working people working to alleviate our nation’s dependence on foreign uranium for 90 percent of our country’s nuclear-based electricity supply. But their task is made difficult, if not impossible, in the face of reckless federal uranium transfers. My amendment is but a first step towards the reforms we need to restore sanity in the federal uranium program and improve American energy security with Wyoming uranium and Wyoming jobs.”