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URAM AND CURTIS NOMINATIONS
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 1994
Washington, DC. The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:30 a.m. in room SD366, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Wendell H. Ford, presiding. OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. WENDELL H. FORD, U.S.
SENATOR FROM KENTUCKY Senator FORD. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. This is a hearing on President Clinton's nomination of Charles Curtis to be Under Secretary of Energy and Robert Uram to be the Director of the Office of Surface Mining at the Department of the Interior.
Without objection, the written testimony of the witnesses, the committee's questionnaire, and financial disclosure statements furnished by the nominees will be submitted for the record.
Gentlemen, the rules of the committee which apply to all nominees require that they be sworn in connection with their testimony. And if you would please stand and raise your right hand, I will see if I can administer this oath.
[Whereupon Mr. Curtis and Mr. Uram were duly sworn by Senator Ford.]
Senator FORD. Thank you, gentlemen. Be seated.
Before you begin your statements, I will ask you three questions that we address to all nominees before this committee. And will you both be available to appear before the committee and other congressional committees to represent the departmental positions and respond to issues of concern to the Congress?
Mr. URAM. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Senator FORD. I thank you both. Are you aware of any personal holdings, investments, or interests that could constitute a conflict of interest or create the appearance of such a conflict should you be confirmed and assume the office to which you have been nominated by the President?
Mr. URAM. No, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CURTIS. Mr. Chairman, I have holdings that will be disposed of in accordance with the instructions of the Ethics Officer at the Department.
Senator FORD. Are you involved or do you have any assets held in blind trust?
Mr. URAM. No, I do not, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CURTIS. I do not, Mr. Chairman.
Senator FORD. Before we proceed, do you have any family members that are present with you today that either one of you would like to introduce?
Mr. URAM. Yes, Mr. Chairman. I would like to introduce my wife, Charlotte Uram; my sister, Susan Levinson; and my parents, Joseph and Beatrice Uram.
Senator FORD. We will try not to treat your son unkindly this morning
Mr. CURTIS. "And I, Mr. Chairman, would like to introduce my wife, Rochelle Curtis.
Senator FORD. Rochelle, good morning.
And we are now joined by the distinguished Senator from Wyoming who I saw a picture of the other day with hair.
Senator FORD. Well, I am not sure. I think I like you the way you are.
Senator, if you have any statement or other remarks you would like to make, I would be more than pleased. I have sworn them. STATEMENT OF HON. MALCOLM WALLOP, U.S. SENATOR FROM
WYOMING Senator WALLOP. I do, Mr. Chairman, but I will insert it into the record, as we have a vote.
Senator FORD. Without objection, then, a statement by Senator Wallop will be included in the record.
[The prepared statement of Senator Wallop follows:] PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. MALCOLM WALLOP, U.S. SENATOR FROM WYOMING
Mr. Chairman, I have just a few brief remarks with respect to these nominations. I would say first that both of these gentlemen appear to be qualified going into the jobs for which they have been nominated. My concern, however, is that they not become ensnared in the ever-increasing mindset that the role of government is some kind of super in loco parentis. I call it, the "nanny syndrome.”.
For some inexplicable reason, perfectly sane individuals, with distinguished careers in the private sector, become mesmerized by Scylla of bureaucracy and Charybdis of regulation and begin steering their ships on the shoals of the federal nanny.
Mr. Curtis, in your position as Under Secretary, you will have considerable influence on setting national energy policy. There are several immediate problems before the Department that are of concern to me and which I will explore further in my questioning:
They include the Administration's tendency to discount the importance of nuclear power in our nations energy future; and
The proclivity of the Administration to interfere in the operations of the Uranium Enrichment Corporation in spite of clear Congressional intent that it operate strictly as a commercial enterprise. Mr. Uram, you will have sweeping power to determine the viability of coal mining in this country:
The regulation of coal mining envisioned in the Surface Mining and Coal Reclamation Act of 1977 still today requires a careful balance between protecting our environment and producing the coal the United States needs to supply vital- and growing energy needs. I believe that Act has been dutifully administered. Others believe federal oversight has essentially turned into federal “overlook" and disregard for the law. As this Administration attempts to chart a new course for balancing. these competing view points, I see several problems unfolding:
The concept of State primacy is being discarded at random. Environmental protection is paramount to all other competing interests, even our future energy security.
The reclamation of coal mining is a way to stop all mineral activities and not a consequence of sound, cost efficient regulation. As you both enter your new positions, remember that the private sector is the engine which drives the greatness of the nation—not government. Also remember that the Founding Fathers thought that "We the People” were the origin of governmental power, not some faceless entity located in Washington, D.C.
It may take blindfolds and earwax for you to maintain the good sense you bring with you today, but it is imperative that you try. The Committee will be the cattle prod in your back if you don't. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll reserve my questions for later. Senator FORD. Senator Campbell, do you have a statement? Senator CAMPBELL. I have no statement, Mr. Chairman. Senator FORD. No statement? Well, fine.
Then, Mr. Uram, if you would like to proceed with your statement for the committee, we will be pleased to hear that at this time.
TESTIMONY OF ROBERT J. URAM, NOMINEE TO BE DIRECTOR,
OFFICE OF SURFACE MINING, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTE-
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, it is an honor to appear before this committee, and I am grateful to President Clinton and to Secretary Babbitt for giving me the opportunity, subject to your approval, to serve as Director of the Office of Surface Mining. I believe strongly in public service and in the mission of the Office of Surface Mining.
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act has assured the effective reclamation of hundreds of thousands of acres of land, while allowing coal production to almost double since the Act was passed. Most companies have made reclamation a fundamental part of their operations.
Nonetheless, not all mines are being properly reclaimed, and unfortunately new environmental problems are still being created. Secretary Babbitt has asked that the Office of Surface Mining improve the administration of the Act to make it more effective, efficient, and fair, and to ensure that all mines are properly reclaimed. If confirmed, I hope to build on the Office of Surface Mining's accomplishments, remedy its weaknesses, and ensure the fair, effective, and efficient administration of the law.
I previously served as the head lawyer for the Office of Surface Mining and worked for 10 years for the Department of the Interior. I have great loyalty and respect for the Department of the Interior as an institution and for its mission of resource management and protection. My accomplishments as a public servant include enforcing the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, helping to defend successfully its constitutionality against challenge, and building effective State-Federal relationships in both the Federal Coal Leasing Program and in the Surface Coal Mining Reclamation Program
For the past 10 years I have been a lawyer in private practice, specializing in natural resources law. I have learned a great deal and appreciate both the challenges faced by the regulated community and the importance of citizen participation in achieving effective environmental regulation.
For the past few weeks I have had the privilege of meeting and talking with many of you and your staffs, and others in the Senate, to learn about the issues of concern to you. I have found these meetings to be very helpful. I look forward to an open and productive relationship with the committee and the Senate as a whole, and I hope that my commitment to the goals of the Surface Mining Act, coupled with my knowledge of the law and my experience in building cooperative relations, will enable me to successfully lead the Office of Surface Mining.
In closing, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, if confirmed I would seek to discharge my duties with dedication, skill, good judgment and commonsense, and to bring the highest standards of professional integrity to the office.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Uram follows:) PREPARED STATEMENT OF ROBERT J. URAM, NOMINEE TO BE DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF
SURFACE MINING, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR I am honored to appear before this Committee and am grateful to President Clin. ton and to Secretary Babbitt for giving me the opportunity, subject to your approval, to serve as Director of the Office of Surface Mining. I believe strongly in public service and the mission of the Office of Surface Mining. I am delighted to be here.
I am particularly pleased to be selected to head the agency which oversees the reclamation of our Nation's coal mines. I remember visiting the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania, area as a child and seeing the coal refuse piles that were the -legacy of a different era of mining: I would be proud to be part of an agency which is devoted to eliminating these old scars and to ensuring that all mined lands are properly reclaimed in an environmentally sound manner.
Coal is a valuable energy resource and hard-working and dedicated coal miners are the social and economic backbone of thousands of communities. For many years, however, poorly reclaimed coal mines caused massive damage to the lands and waters of our country. In 1977, the Congress responded by passing the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act which established a nationwide program to protect society and the environment from the adverse effects of surface coal mine operations and to promote the reclamation of previously mined areas.
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act has, in fact, assured the effective reclamation of hundreds of thousands of acres of land, while allowing coal production to almost double since the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act was passed. Most companies have made reclamation an integral part of their oper. ations. Nonetheless, the implementation of this law has not been an easy task and it is widely recognized that much needs to be done to improve its administration and effectiveness. Mines are not being properly reclaimed and new environmental problems are still being created.
Secretary Babbitt has asked the OSM to enforce the law more effectively and efficiently, to improve federal/state relationships so that the common responsibility of ensuring reclamation will be achieved, to communicate its goals and objectives clearly and consistently, to improve its response to citizen concerns and to improve the consistency with which the OSM administers the program. If confirmed, I hope to build on OSM's accomplishments, remedy its weaknesses, meet the Secretary's goals and ensure the fair, effective and efficient administration of the law. The Secretary has appointed an interim management team to begin the process of achieving these objectives and I anticipate benefiting greatly from that effort.
I have devoted much of my career to mining and reclamation issues. I believe this experience has prepared me for the challenging task that lies before me if I am confirmed.
I came to the Department of the Interior as a career civil servant in 1973. For many years, I worked for the Solicitor's Office of the Department of the Interior. on coal mining and reclamation issues. I helped the Department develop a federal coal leasing program that could meet the nation's needs for federal coal and be sensitive to the environmental impacts of mining and to the needs of the states and local communities affected by mining. I helped pioneer the concept of federal/state cooperation in the federal coal leasing program through the development of regional coal teams on which states participated as full partners.
I also worked directly on surface coal mining reclamation issues. Before the Con. gress passed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, I played a lead role in negotiating and drafting cooperative agreements with Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Utah and other states that helped eliminate duplication and overlapping federal/state regulation of coal mines on federal lands. These agreements --became the model for the cooperative agreement provisions in section 523 of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. I worked on the task forces that helped organize the Office of Surface Mining. In 1979, Secretary
Andrus appointed me to be Associate Solicitor for Surface Mining. In that capacity, I was the head lawyer for the Office of Surface Mining.
During my time as Associate Solicitor, we supported the OSM's enforcement program and brought criminal prosecutions against those persons who physically attacked OSM inspectors to prevent them from doing their job. The vast majority of state programs were approved during this period and the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law against two major challenges.
In 1980, I left Washington D.C. to broaden my horizons beyond the Potomac. I was born in Philadelphia and educated in the east. Over the past 13 years I have lived in New Mexico and California and have gained a greater appreciation and respect for the variety of lands and cultures that make up our great country.
After three years with the Solicitor's Office in New Mexico, I left the government to enter the private practice of law. I continued to specialize in the natural resource area. I have represented cities, private companies and environmental groups on reclamation, wetlands, watershed protection, endangered species and many other issues. I have been fortunate to have gained not only new legal skills and technical knowledge, but also an appreciation for the challenges faced by the regulated community. I respect those in the private sector who try so hard to ensure that there is, in fact, no conflict between jobs and the environment.
For the past few weeks, I have had the privilege of meeting and talking with many of you,
your staffs and others in the Senate to learn about the issues of concern to you. These meetings were very helpful. I see opportunities to help the OSM meet its mission of implementing the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act more effectively and efficiently, I look forward to an open and productive relationship with this Committee and the Congress as a whole. I hope that my commitment to the goals of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, coupled with my knowledge of the law, and my experience in building cooperative and effective federal/state relations will enable me to lead the OSM to complete the bold mission that the Congress gave the agency in 1977,
In closing, if confirmed, I would seek to discharge my duties with dedication, skill, good judgment and commonsense and to bring the highest standards of professional integrity to the office. I thank you for your consideration and look forward to working with you to make the Office of Surface Mining a beacon of fairness, efficiency and effectiveness.
Senator FORD. Thank you, Mr. Uram. Mr. Curtis. TESTIMONY OF CHARLES B. CURTIS, NOMINEE TO BE UNDER
SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY Mr. CURTIS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I am honored to appear before this committee as the President's nominee for Under Secretary of the Department of Energy. I can pledge to you and to the public a straightforward commitment to work hard, to be open and honest, and to accept responsibility for my actions.
I share Secretary O'Leary's vision that the Department of Energy must be transformed to improve its overall effectiveness and to strengthen public trust in its stewardship responsibilities. I also share her commitment to total quality management and her dedication to excellence.
I expect my performance to be measured by the results achieved. Effort and good intentions will not be enough, I know. I and those members of senior management already at the Department know full well that to serve the Nation effectively we must bring about