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Sustainability priorities on the Hill

Rep. Paul Tonko shares his thoughts on nuclear energy, a clean recovery and the next steps for Democrats on climate change.

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TONKO’S THOUGHTS We sat down this week with Rep. Paul Tonko, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the environment and climate change, to discuss Democrats’ next steps on the economic recovery, infrastructure and climate change. Here are some highlights from the conversation.

Room for nuclear: Tonko said he would be open to the continued use of nuclear energy, a subject on which Democrats are split. “Clean energy of any kind, including our nuclear energy, is an important factor as we go forward,” Tonko told us.

While nuclear produces no carbon dioxide, it has been the subject of concerns over waste disposal and other environmental issues, and the only plant currently under construction in the U.S. has faced frequent schedule delays and cost overruns. Still, the industry holds out hope that newer technologies like small modular reactors could deliver carbon-free power with less waste, and anti-nuclear sentiment has been softening on the left. Even the Green New Deal leaves the door open to the possibility of nuclear energy.

Cash for credits: Tonko endorsed an idea that is gaining steam among Democrats and clean energy advocates: converting existing wind and solar tax credits into direct payments for companies. It’s one of several ideas Democrats are pushing in a long-shot bid to get more assistance to the clean energy sector in an upcoming stimulus or infrastructure bill. “It’s a good concept,” Tonko said.

What about that climate bill? The pandemic disrupted work on the sweeping climate bill that Democrats unveiled earlier this year, but Tonko said lawmakers were getting back on track with virtual hearings to flesh out some ideas in the proposal. An audience member wanted to know what…

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2020-06-10 11:00:00

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