weather icon Clear

Energy secretary nominee vows to remove plutonium from Nevada

Updated November 14, 2019 - 7:15 pm

WASHINGTON — Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, tapped by President Donald Trump to replace Secretary Rick Perry, sailed through a Senate confirmation hearing Thursday where he said he would uphold an agreement to remove weapons-grade plutonium from Nevada.

Despite reservations by Nevada officials about Brouillette’s nomination, senators from both parties hailed the nominee. He was overwhelmingly confirmed to the deputy position two years ago.

“He has made a good impression on just about everyone, and he is a great choice to replace Secretary Perry,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Even the ranking Democrat on the panel, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., praised Brouillette, a former executive from Ford Motor Co. and USAA, the insurance giant based in San Antonio.

“This is an enormous job. But I thank Mr. Brouilette, and I know he is up to the task,” Manchin said during the committee’s confirmation hearing.

A committee vote on the nomination is expected soon. If approved, the nomination would go to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Brouillette was confirmed as deputy secretary with a bipartisan 79-17 vote in 2017.

He also won Senate confirmation to serve in the Energy Department during the George W. Bush administration, which pushed for licensing of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository.

Brouillette’s embrace of Yucca Mountain as the sole repository for the nation’s radioactive waste from nuclear power plants has left Nevadans skeptical of his nomination to head the department.

During Thursday’s hearing, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., questioned Brouillette about Yucca Mountain.

She also quizzed him on a shipment of a half-ton of plutonium from South Carolina to the Nevada National Security Site as the state was preparing a lawsuit to block the material.

The Energy Department didn’t notify Nevada that the plutonium was in the state until after it filed a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction to block the shipment.

Relations between Perry and state leaders plummeted to new lows.

Cortez Masto later won concessions from Perry to begin moving the plutonium out of the state in 2021., roughly the time frame that Energy had planned to transfer the material to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico anyway

Brouillette assured Cortez Masto he would abide by the agreement the senator struck with Perry.

“I will give you a firm commitment that we will honor that agreement,” Brouillette told Cortez Masto during the hearing.

Cortez Masto also peppered Brouillette on Yucca Mountain policy. He replied the same way Perry had in the past, noting Congress approved the location as the sole site for nuclear waste disposal from power plants.

Until Congress changes the law, Brouillette said, he and the Energy Department are bound to follow it.

However, he said the Energy Department would not spend money on Yucca Mountain that had not been first authorized by Congress.

And he acknowledged under questioning by Cortez Masto the bitter acrimony between his department and the state. He said he would look at ways to improve communication and cooperation with Nevada.

Cortez Masto met privately with Brouillette earlier this week and is expected to meet again with the nominee next week as the Senate continues to consider confirmation.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Secretary of Education visits Henderson school
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited students at Pinecrest Academy in Henderson to talk about college planning on Dec. 4, 2019. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump dropped from Terry Fator’s show on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Fator has edited out one prominent figure: President Donald Trump, a focal point of Fator’s regular stage show and also Christmas show over the past 3½ years. The Trump puppet, with his pop-up hairpiece, has been sidelined from both shows until further notice. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Accused murder mastermind Frank LaPena is granted a pardon - VIDEO
A onetime Las Vegas casino bell captain who spent 25 years in prison as the accused mastermind in a notorious 1974 contract murder won his last legal battle for freedom Wednesday when the state Pardons Board granted him a conditional pardon restoring all his civil rights. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Middle: Nonpartisan voters and the 2020 election
How will the growing segment of nonpartisan or independent voters — those who have not registered with either political party, or who have left partisan politics behind — vote in 2020?
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - VIDEO
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - VIDEO
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Democrats unveil 2 impeachment articles against Trump

House Democrats announced two articles of impeachment Tuesday against President Donald Trump, pushing toward votes over charges he corrupted the U.S. election process and endangered national security.

Sanders talks mining, Medicare in Nevada

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was reunited with a Navy veteran who had been depressed to the point of suicide about medical bills, but who credited Sanders help with saving him.

Republicans, Democrats spar over impeachment evidence

The House Judiciary Committee received a detailed summing up of the impeachment case against President Donald Trump Monday as Democrats prepare formal articles of impeachment that could be voted on as early as this week.