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Senate Confirms Richardson to Head DOE

Senate Confirms Richardson to Head DOE

A last-minute concession by the White House on nuclear-waste storage cleared the way for the Senate on Friday to confirm by unanimous consent Bill Richardson, currently the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as the next secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE).

The Senate vote came less than one day after President Clinton sent a letter to Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), who vowed to put a hold on the nomination, assuring him that Richardson would have full authority to deal with Congress to resolve the controversial nuclear-waste storage issue.

"Let me assure you that Ambassador Richardson has the portfolio for addressing the nuclear-waste issue and has full authority to carry out his responsibilities in this area," Clinton wrote in his July 30th letter to Craig.

Craig "feels that he's forced the issue with them. His demands were met and he doesn't see a need to carry on with it," said Will Hart, Craig's press aide on Friday prior to the Senate vote. Richardson is "now empowered to solve this problem."

The letter put an end to what was shaping up to be an angry showdown between the White House and Craig over the nuclear-waste storage issue, with the Richardson nomination caught in middle. Craig, a member of the Senate Energy Committee, was supported in his effort by Senate Energy Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Rod Grams (R-MN), but faced opposition from the committee's Democrat members.

Richardson, once sworn in, would succeed Federico Pena, who stepped down as DOE secretary in late June. Deputy Energy Secretary Elizabeth Moler has been the acting energy secretary since then, but she is expected to leave the department after Richardson takes office, according to Washington sources.

Susan Parker

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