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Russia an 'important relationship' for US nuclear energy sector
by Staff Writers
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Jan 31, 2014


File image.

The Voice of Russia has talked to Rep. Cynthia Lummis, a congressman from the US State of Wyoming, who has come to Russia as part of a group of mediators monitoring the effects of Fukushima nuclear disaster. Ms. Lummis is the only Wyoming Rep. in the House of Representatives and a member of the House Natural Resources, Oversight and Government Reform and Science, Space and Technology Committees.

She said she applauds Russia for taking a "reasonable stance" on the notion of contributions that the humankind is allegedly making to climate change.

The number one topic that everyone is speaking about today is, of course, President Obama's State of the Union Address. What are your impressions and what was the most important in this speech for you?

I was glad that his tone was not overly combative. In the past he has come in and chided and lectured Republicans and that has not gone over very well. And right now the public polling shows that he is not as popular as he used to be, which puts him in the position of having to, I believe, once again soft-sell himself at the same time that he reaches out a hand to try and work with both: the Congress and the American people. I thought his tone was appropriate to that part of one of the goals of his speech.

What about what he said about the minimum wage, that he is going to raise it. Is Congress going to pass it easily or it is going to fight this initiative?

The President said that he is going to use his executive power to apply a ten dollar ten cent wage increase to federal contracts. Quite frankly, many of federal contracts are over ten-ten right now. And as I look at my part of the United States, the Rocky Mountains West, that is usually exceeded right now the minimum wage of ten dollars and ten cents, particularly in areas that see substantial growth in the energy sector.

However, there are other sectors where going to ten dollars and ten cents for summer fast food workers or seasonal workers before the Christmas holidays to work in retail stores, where the employees are in high school, really limits their ability to get a summer job or a seasonal job. So, I think that there will be resistance to that based on the needs in our economy for young people to have entry level jobs.

The impression that many foreign journalists get is that the country is getting very partisan in the last several years. Is it going to be this way forever? And are there areas where Republicans and Democrats can work together successfully?

I think we are in an era of where we are very partisan; I think, it is unfortunate. I think, it will be very difficult without the president spending much more time with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to break loose of the partisanship, while President Obama is the president. So, it would take a tremendous change in his attitude towards Congress to break through that logjam.

When he came in early on with the "elections have consequences, I won - you lose attitude" that, I think, set the stage for a precedency, where he then passed legislations with democrats support only that affected massive sectors in our economies, such as healthcare, and his efforts to massively change the energy sector with cap and trade. Those were very resisted by Republicans, especially, healthcare.

And to have those sweeping changes done on a one party basis left such a sour taste in the nation's mouth that it will be very hard and it would take a concerted effort for this president to retrieve bipartisan cooperation. It is not impossible but among the things that he said last night reaching out in a bipartisan way was not really one of them. As you know, he came to the speech, saying I'm going to use my pen and my phone, if you do not act in ways that I think are best and that is hardly bipartisan.

Another impression that I get is that the country is becoming more and more liberal. Would you agree with that? Even some of my colleagues think that Republicans are getting less and less chances to win the presidency with every coming day. The country is taking a huge left swing.

I would say that the country is becoming more and more urban. And as rural America becomes less important on the electoral stage than urban America, it is going to cause more and more programs that are geared towards urban areas. And I think that move towards urbanism is consequential and could be interpreted as a move towards liberalism.

I do not think that this is necessarily the death of the Republican party or certainly the death of conservatism. I think, it is just a temporary swing in that direction. So, while I agree with those who would say the country is becoming more liberal, I would tend to agree that that is true right now, but I think that there will be a course correction later on.

Recently you went to Russia. Was it your first trip? And what was the purpose of your visit?

It was my first trip to Russia. I was so impressed and pleasantly surprised with my trip to Moscow. I had never been there, but I had impressions from American movies that it was dull and drab, kind of dirty, and nothing could have been further from the truth. It was so beautiful. The buildings are lovely, it was extremely clean, the people were very nice. It seemed very cosmopolitan, and I was extremely impressed with Moscow. We did not get to meet with Mr. Putin because he was busy with Sochi, with the Olympics, with the situation in Kiev and other matters that were regionally important. So, that was one of the meetings that we had hoped to have that we did not. But we had a wonderful meeting with an international group that is based in Moscow that would help with the mediation of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima and also monitoring.

And based on the repurposing of the Russian scientists after the Cold War ended to look at civilian and energy uses of the nuclear power, a tremendous amount of the Russian expertise is coming to the fore in the issues of the mediation and monitoring when it comes to nuclear power plants. So, that was fascinating. I am on the Science and Technology Committee here in the Congress and it was right up my alley. So, I would have to say that my trip to Moscow, my very first trip, was very impressive, I was pleasantly surprised and hugely convinced that this is an important relationship for the United States.

How difficult is the situation in Fukushima? Some experts, scientists say that the worst is behind us, some say that it is even getting worse and worse.

Too soon to tell. I do know that with regard to soil contamination that could affect the livability in Fukushima for both people and plants and animals there is a lot of work to be done. Six studies were commissioned: three based on the Chernobyl experience and three more that were based outside of Ukraine that are going to be revealed in April of this year to help understand how we can monitor and remediate the soil around the Fukushima. And this is an international team of scientists that commissions these studies. It is funded by multiple nations, but based in Moscow. Tremendous science is being applied to this. It remains to be seen whether humans, plants or animals will have much chance right there around the perimeter of the nuclear power plants in Fukushima for many years to come.

Really the more consequential issue is the oceans, the currents, the concerns that the global community has about radioactive material moving around the world by way of ocean currents. So, that is the much more sticky wicket that will have to be studied and dealt with by the scientists. The good news is that it is an application of tremendous global expertise to a problem that was experienced in Japan, where science based on previous incidents such as Chernobyl can be very helpful and telling.

Wyoming is one of the major regions that produces energy. Another issue that is worth discussing, and president mentioned that as well yesterday is global warming, carbon emissions. What is your stand, and am I wrong saying that this issue is already resolved and that CO2 is the main reason for climate change and this is man's fault?

This tends to be an agreement and a position of Russia that climate change is a natural phenomenon that human kind cant exacerbate the conditions of climate change. Climate change is occurring now but that it is not possible to determine what percentage of current climate change is attributable to the activities of mankind. I am pretty comfortable with where Russia itself is on that issue and that the science continues to be explored and that it is not a settled issue regarding the effects of mankind on the changing climates.

But billions and billions of dollars have already been spent to fight the climate change...

And I would argue that it's always appropriate to try to reduce pollution; the pollution itself - because the massive effects particularly being experienced by the Chinese right now and their explosive growth in their urban areas such as Beijing. Asthma, other respiratory problems that are associated with the accumulation of pollution through NOx and SOx, (nitrous oxides and sulfuric oxides) - that is something we know how to contain and we should help other countries contain, such as China.

When it comes to greenhouse gases, we are looking at science that would, for example, allow methane gas, when its being flared by oil and gas production, to be trapped and recaptured and neutralized in a way that allows for the production of the productive materials such as plastics - that sort of sciences being explored here in the US and elsewhere. Those were worthy goals that can help reduce the concerns about the buildup of greenhouse gases.

But the fact that, to say CO2 is a pollutant is in my mind a not recognizing nature. CO2 is something that we all breathe out, it is natural occurrence and we need to recognize that the science is still open as to the human effect on climate change. So, I applaud Russia for taking a reasonable stance on their notions about the contributions of mankind to climate change, that the science is still being explored and should be, but we need not jump to conclusions about that - that are based on science and scientific models that are now in disrepute.

Recently there was a meeting between the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the head of the Russian Ministry for Civil Defense, Emergency Situations and the Elimination of Consequences of Disasters. Do you know anything about that because I think there was an agreement to join Russian and American efforts together to fight the dangers from space - from asteroids and sort of Armageddon-type-like situations?

Actually when I was in Moscow we visited the cosmonaut museum and while I was there we met we both a cosmonaut and a US astronaut, both of whom been to the US space station, and have been working together along with NASA and its Russian counterpart on those specific issues, as well as how to leverage the financial resources that the globe now is struggling with and still be able to explore deep space and keep the manned space program going in terms of the space station, allow it to be an international effort, led in this case by the Russians at this time, but augmented by NASA scientists and certainly NASA astronauts.

So it was a very enlightening collaboration and it was very exciting to go on this tour. We toured both with cosmonaut and the astronaut both of whom have been in space and got to see the history of the space station and the space race back from Sputnik all the way to where we are today. I think it is an exciting international collaboration led by Russia and US, with other nations involvement. And it is just a natural outcropping of that, that we would use that platform of the space science to pursue means to prevent catastrophic occurrences for Earth from asteroids and other potential hazards.

When you go back home, to Wyoming and meet with your voters, what are you going to tell them - what are they expecting from you and what are the main challenges that are facing your state and what interests you are supporting in Congress?

Wyoming is an energy producing state, so the opportunity to produce energy in a sustainable way that is safe and that is good for the safety of the workers and the environment, while still moving forward and helping America become energy independent is very important issue in my state. We love our beautiful surroundings and we want to make sure that they stay that way.

We also want to understand what's going on around the world, so I do get more questions than you might think like what went wrong in Benghazi that a US ambassador was killed there, what is the situation an the future for Egypt's stability, can the Israeli-Palestinian disagreements be resolved. Wyoming people, as rural as we are, are very interested in those issues.

So, just having returned from Egypt where I got to meet with president Mansour and with General al-Sisi, being there at a time where they just adopted a new constitution and are proceeding out of vote for a new president and parliament and seeing how that's playing out in terms of the largest Arab country in the world, the country that really forms the culture of the global Arab community in terms of music and all kinds of cultural influences - it is important! So I talk about those things and Wyoming people are interested in those things.

They are equally interested in seeing our quality of life in Wyoming maintained in a way that allows economic opportunities for our children and grandchildren, should they want to stay in Wyoming. And here it means good schools, good roads, business opportunities, a climate of entrepreneurship which allows thoughtful people with great ideas to pursue a small business in our own state. It covers the waterfront, it's a big array of interests and issues.

It's so challenging to represent an entire state in the House of Representatives and be the only representative. So we try to be very well-informed in our office and do a lot of good client communications, or rather constituent communications in Wyoming to keep people informed and to reduce the size and influence of the federal government so our state can emerge as the real leader that is close to the people and most able to address the needs of very spirited and independent Americans.

Thank you very much for your time and good luck in your work!

Thank you and my pleasure!

Source: Voice of Russia

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