Costello & Calvert Amendment on External Regulation of Department of Energy Civilian Labs Added to Energy Bill
WASHINGTON - Yesterday, Congressmen Jerry Costello (D-IL) and Ken Calvert (R-CA) succeeded in adding an amendment to the Science Committee's version of national energy policy legislation (H.R. 238) that would provide for external regulation of the Department of Energy's (DOE's) civilian laboratories. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would take over regulation of the civilian energy labs after a two-year transition period.
"This issue has been studied extensively for over a decade by Congressional Committees, blue ribbon panels at the Department of Energy and the U.S. General Accounting Office," said Costello, who introduced legislation (H.R. 5275) to make this change during the 107th Congress. "The record clearly shows that external regulation is needed and will make the labs safer, improve their work environment and performance, and save taxpayers' money. Lab managers have strongly endorsed this action."
"It is vital that the Department change the way they manage lab conditions in environment, safety and health," argued Congressman Calvert in the Science Committee markup. "The Department should embrace best management practices in this area, modeled on both corporate efforts and those followed by California's Jet Propulsion Lab, which the GAO points to as a model for how a Federal facility can be managed safely and smartly."
Currently, DOE is the only federal agency that self-regulates its worker and nuclear safety. There has been a long-standing concern that self-regulation has led to less reporting of violations by lab employees because they fear retaliation from superiors. External regulation should allow the labs to transfer an estimated 30% of their Environment, Safety and Health workforce positions to Science and Technology work - the central mission of these labs. In addition, it is estimated that enacting external regulation at the labs would save DOE $41 million annually.