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Energy secretary nominee gets nod from Mark Udall


By Stefanie Dazio Herald staff writer

WASHINGTON – Sen. Mark Udall questioned energy secretary nominee Ernest Moniz about a renewable-energy laboratory in Golden, nuclear energy and climate change during a Senate committee hearing Tuesday.

The Colorado Democrat plans to vote in favor of Moniz’s nomination. Moniz would replace current Energy Secretary and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu, who plans to step down.

“With his prior experience at (the National Renewable Energy Laboratory), Dr. Moniz understands Colorado and the unique approach we take to balancing traditional and renewable sources of energy, from natural gas and nuclear to wind and solar,” Udall said.

Tuesday’s hearing was in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The committee did not vote on the nomination, but Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced his support for Moniz, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics professor.

Udall asked Moniz for his thoughts about public-private partnerships through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden.

The laboratory, known as NREL, has partnerships with private-sector companies, including Siemens Energy Inc. Udall visited the Siemens research turbine at the National Wind Technology Center, in a suburb of Boulder, last month.

Moniz said he is an “enormous fan” of public-private partnerships.

Moniz also said he would like to look into regionally focused industries working with the public sector.

Udall asked Moniz, who favors an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, about the viability of small modular nuclear reactors.

“I think that it’s a very promising direction that we need to pursue,” Moniz said, adding that there is a lot of innovation happening in nuclear energy.

Udall also brought up climate change.

“Climate change is happening in Colorado,” he said. “We’ve had unprecedented droughts, we’ve had low-snow years, we have forest ecosystems that are being savaged by the bark beetle, we had enormous fires last year. I think it’s time to act. There’s great opportunity presenting itself to us in the context of national security, job creation and, of course, environmental benefits.”

Moniz said, “I certainly agree that the scientific basis for warranting action is completely clear.”

Stefanie Dazio is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald. You can reach her at sdazio@durangoherald.com.

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