Jennifer Granholm, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of Energy, easily cleared the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Wednesday with a 13-4 bipartisan vote, setting her on course for a floor vote.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the chair and ranking member, each voted for Granholm, as did Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-N.M.), the latter two of whom have significant nuclear-weapons and nuclear waste sites in their states.
I want to thank the members of the Senate Energy Committee for voting me out of committee this morning — I am eager to get to work on behalf of your people and the country to create clean energy jobs. Thank you @Sen_JoeManchin and @lisamurkowski
— Jennifer Granholm (@JenGranholm) February 3, 2021
In her confirmation hearing Jan. 28, Granholm, the former Michigan governor, said she would pay special attention to the Department of Energy’s largest nuclear-weapons cleanup, the Hanford Site in Washington state.
Granholm also told Cortez Masto that the Biden administration would not attempt to build a permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nye County, Nev., and that the administration favored the Obama-era concept of consent-based siting: getting approval from local, tribal and state officials before attempting to build a nuclear-waste repository on their territory.
Granholm made only blanket statements about prioritizing the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons mission at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The semi-autonomous Department of Energy branch is under the jurisdiction of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and of its thousands of federal employees, only one, the administrator, reports directly to the Secretary of Energy.
The NNSA alone made up about half of the Department of Energy’s roughly $40 billion budget for fiscal year 2021. Nearly all of NNSA’s budget goes to active nuclear weapons programs, including maintenance and refurbishment of warheads and bombs and infrastructure to produce components for such weapons.
Biden had not nominated anyone at deadline to be either administrator of the NNSA or assistant secretary for environmental management: the top post at the Office of Environmental Management (EM) that helms DoE’s roughly $7.5-billion-a-year cleanup of shuttered Manhattan Project and Cold War nuclear-weapons production sites.
It took the Trump administration roughly a year to nominate leaders for NNSA and EM. Trump nominated an NNSA secretary in December 2017 and an assistant secretary for environmental management in January 2018. Like the secretary of energy and the deputy secretary of energy, the NNSA and EM bosses require Senate confirmation.
Biden had also not nominated a deputy secretary of energy at deadline.