Senators offer amendments to defense bill

-A A +A

Politics: Biofuels, NNSA reform are on the table

U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman announced work Wednesday on several amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, including one amendment passed that would ensure the Department of Defense could continue to purchase biofuels, such as those being advanced by companies in New Mexico.

“With these amendments, we are ensuring New Mexico is a leader in the 21st century clean energy economy, and at the forefront of the national security achievements being made at our national labs and within the defense community,” Udall said. “Our biofuels amendment is especially important to national security and businesses in our state so I’m glad we were able to get one over the finish line today.”

“The National Defense Authorization Act is one of the most important bills for New Mexico because it helps fund our national labs and our military installations. I am especially glad that the Senate adopted our amendment to allow the Pentagon to invest in all types of fuels — including biofuels — for its fleets. The Defense Department is a major consumer of fuel, and the more homegrown, cleaner-burning fuel it purchases the better off we will be,” said Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Udall has also filed an amendment with Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) to create an advisory panel and evaluate the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

The panel would make recommendations on how to reform the NNSA, which has oversight of Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories.

Udall introduced the amendment in light of cost overruns, security breaches and management issues over the last few years to improve the scientific work, safety and employee retention.

The New Mexico senators joined forces with Senator Mark Udall of Colorado to propose an amendment which clarifies that the Defense Department, the nation’s largest energy user, can purchase alternative fuels to supports its operations in the U.S. and abroad. It would also maintain the production and advancement of biofuels to make them more competitive with traditional sources of energy. The amendment, which passed 62-37, is now part of the larger defense authorization bill, which is currently pending in the Senate.

The New Mexico Senators have filed other key amendments to the pending bill that are important to New Mexico, including:
An amendment to establish an open burn bit registry, similar to those created to track Agent Orange and Gulf War Syndrome, for individuals who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes during their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is similar to S. 1798, the Open Burn Pits Registry Act, which would help the Department of Veteran Affairs determine to what extent air pollution caused by open air burn pits has led to medical diseases among service members. Earlier this year, Sen. Udall testified in support of S. 1798 before the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
The “Buy American” Solar amendment, which will close a loophole that put American solar companies at a disadvantage to foreign competitors. Currently, DoD is required to purchase American solar panels. However, the “Buy American” requirements often do not apply to solar projects at military installations, which are managed by third party producers. “Buy American” was passed as part of last year’s National Defense Authorization Act in the Senate but was not included in the final bill;
An amendment to establish a National Center for Algal Biotechnology in order to support DoD’s energy production and technology development for national defense. The center would advance research relating to energy independence, foster innovation, education, and entrepreneurial activities to support commercialization of bio-algae to improve its cost effectiveness, and work to integrate genetic work into an existing facility that focuses on biotechnology research;
An extension of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which would expand restitution for Americans who have been sickened from working in uranium mines or living near atomic weapons tests. This would extend RECA to compensate post ’71 miners, millers and individuals downwind of the Trinity Test Site in De Baca, Guadalupe, Lincoln, San Miguel, Socorro, Torrance and Otero counties. The amendment is similar to S. 791, The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2011, cosponsored by the senators.