Paul Tonko

Yucca Mountain’s Lone Ranger Finally Corrals House Attention
Nuclear waste bill passes easily in House, faces roadblocks in Senate

Rep. John Shimkus says his aggressive questioning of Obama-era energy officials reflected his “righteous anger.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Visiting Nevada’s Yucca Mountain in 2011 was like walking through a ghost town, Rep. John Shimkus recalled in an interview this week.

It was the year after the Obama administration surrendered to fervent local opposition and halted work by the Department of Energy to prepare the site to store the nation’s commercial nuclear waste, even though Congress designated it for that purpose in the 1987 Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

Congress’ Ch-Ch-Changes
Retirements, resignations and deaths around the Capitol

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Congress is going through one of those times when everything seems to be changing, especially the personnel, and that’s not even counting the mounting pile of retirements and resignations among lawmakers. 

‘She Would Love All This Fuss’ — Louise Slaughter Memorialized in the Capitol
Family, colleagues remember a trailblazing, tough and funny member of Congress

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., speaks during a memorial service for Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall on Wednesday. Slaughter, in picture, passed away on March 16 at the age of 88. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Louise Slaughter dreamed that she would die in the Capitol.

That’s at least according to her daughter, Robin Slaughter Minerva, who spoke during a congressional memorial service for her mother on Wednesday in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

Opinion: Building a Water Workforce for America’s Future
Infrastructure investment must include training for those who manage our critical water systems

It is critical to invest in training for the engineers and technicians  who keep the nation’s critical water systems in operation, Tonko writes. Pictured above, the Kensico Dam and Reservoir in Valhall, N.Y. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images file photo)

America faces a tough reality when it comes to our drinking water infrastructure. Eighty-six percent of U.S. households today depend on public water, and the EPA has estimated that nearly $400 billion will be needed in the coming decades just to keep those systems in working order.

Unfortunately, underground pipes and pumps aren’t the only critical components of these systems that are being overlooked. Even as water system failures hit communities all across the U.S., the professionals who keep these beleaguered systems operating safely are aging too. Many are already approaching retirement. In fact, some 37 percent of water utility workers and 31 percent of wastewater utility workers are expected to retire in the next decade.

Opinion: Where Science Goes, So Goes Our Nation
Investing in research and innovation pays off big

A scientist tracking tornadoes in Oklahoma in May looks at radar on his smartphone as part of a project that gets funding from the National Science Foundation and other government programs. Rep. Paul Tonko  writes that federal funding has had a direct impact on technology such as Doppler radar, GPS and smartphones. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images file photo)

A recent opinion column “Science That Leads” by my colleague, House Science Chairman Lamar Smith, argued that certain kinds of science, especially social and behavioral sciences, are not worth public investment. As an engineer, I take special care when I say: The facts disagree.

In 2014, the world’s foremost doctors and medical experts were working furiously to manage the rapidly growing threat of Ebola. Anthropologists, representing a field of behavioral science, understood the funeral practices in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and were able to act as mediators to intervene in ways that slowed the spread of the illness and saved countless lives. The full economic and public health value of this contribution is impossible to quantify but the lives and resources they saved are very real.

Photos of the Week: House in While Senate's Out, Congressional Football and a Wharf
The week of Oct. 10 as captured by Roll Call's photographers

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., holds up bunny ear fingers behind a a technician testing the microphones before the start of the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday. (Bill Clark/Roll Call)

The House was the only chamber in session this week in Washington. The lawmakers headed out of town Thursday for their own recess. The Senate returns next week. 

The congressional football team played a game against Capitol police officers this week while D.C. leaders christened a new wharf in town. 

314 Action Hopes to be the ‘EMILY’s List for Scientists’
Endorsements come with PAC check and potential IE investments

314 Action is rolling out four more endorsements of Democratic challengers Monday. The organization has already backed Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen’s Senate bid.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

An organization dedicated to electing scientists and STEM professionals is endorsing four more Democratic House challengers Monday.

Monday’s congressional endorsements — part of a broader rollout of state and local candidates – comes in traditionally GOP seats, two of which may look more competitive for Democrats in 2018, while two others still look more challenging to flip.

Members, USO Make Care Packages for Hurricane Relief Troops
1,500 packages assembled for National Guard troops deployed to Texas and Florida

Reps. Suzan DelBene of Washington, second from right, and Mike Coffman of Colorado, right, assemble care packages in the Rayburn building Tuesday for members of the National Guard who are assisting in the hurricane cleanup efforts. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The USO came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to get help from members and staffers in their efforts to send 1,500 care packages to National Guard members deployed to Florida and Texas to assist with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma relief.

Hundreds of staffers and several members pitched in and helped the organization reach that goal within two hours. 

Energy Pipeline Permitting Bills Passed by House

Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., authored a bill that would transfer pipeline permit authority from states to the federal government. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As Republicans rush to join the Trump administration’s efforts to boost oil and gas production, the House pushed two measures on Wednesday aimed at easing the permitting process for pipelines that cross state and international lines.

Lawmakers voted, 254-175, to pass a bill by Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., which would transfer authority to issue permits for pipelines and power transmission lines that cross international borders from the State Department to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Mullin and other Republicans argued the measure is necessary to keep politics out of the pipeline permitting process.