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New DOE Secretary Faces Confirmation Battle

New DOE Secretary Faces Confirmation Battle

While natural gas industry spokesmen hailed the nomination of United Nations Ambassador Bill Richardson to be secretary of energy, a leading member of the Senate Energy Committee promised roadblocks on the way to confirmation.

President Clinton last Thursday announced his intention to nominate Richardson to replace Federico Pena who leaves the post at the end of this month.

On the same day Sen. Larry Craig, R-ID, said he would "aggressively oppose" the nomination even though he believes Richardson "is certainly qualified to serve as secretary of energy." Craig said his opposition is aimed at drawing the administration's attention to its "unconscionable" failure to deal with the problem of nuclear waste. Craig said he would oppose any candidate for the job "until the Clinton administration gives the secretary of energy the authority to negotiate a solution to the problem of nuclear waste. So far, the administration's refused to grant that authority. I'll see to it that they face the consequences of that refusal." A staff assistant confirmed the senator intended to put a hold on the nomination, keeping the Senate from voting, and would lobby his colleagues to join in efforts to keep the DOE post vacant until authority over nuclear waste accompanied the job.

Craig stressed that he had no objection to the nominee himself, who also garnered industry-wide support.

Citing Richardson's 14 years representing New Mexico in the U.S. Congress, George Yates, chairman of the Independent Petroleum Assoc. of America, said he was "confident that Ambassador Bill Richardson understands the importance of America's domestic oil and natural gas industry to this nation."

"We are excited to see that the president has appointed as secretary of energy a strong, knowledgeable individual who understands the significance of energy to the economies of the United States and of the world," said David Parker, president of the American Gas Assoc.

Jerry Halvorsen, president of the Interstate Natural Gas Assoc. of America labeled Richardson "a friend of the natural gas industry who brings a wide range of experience and expertise to the Energy Department."

The head of the Electric Power Supply Assoc., Lynne Church, credited the New Mexico native with "Knowledge of energy issues, credibility on the domestic and international fronts, and the political savvy to contribute to the critical energy policy issues facing DOE, not the least of which is bringing competitive reforms to the electricity industry."

As a representative of a producing state, Richardson was an involved member of the House Energy subcommittee and committee which went through years of machinations in the 1980s before finally passing a wellhead natural gas deregulation bill.

Senate Energy Committee Chairman Frank H. Murkowski said that as soon as the nomination is sent down from the White House "I intend to move this nomination with all deliberate speed." He noted Richardson had been through the Senate confirmation process as recently as last year when he was approved for the UN post.

Ellen Beswick

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