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v v CHAPTER 29 Losing What You Love A fter Pantex’s contract was up for dismantling the nuclear weapons , thousands of jobs were at stake. Because of our country’s dependency on oil, there was a growing demand for alternative energy sources. Amarillo was perfect for wind and solar energy. As a state senator, I helped get funding for research on wind energy and ethanol. Over time, those energy sources had significantly expanded. This was a perfect opportunity to save jobs and create additional ones in the Texas Panhandle. A committee of business leaders was formed to build support for Pantex’s expansion. Bill Gilland, who owned a successful car dealership , and Jim Simms, a successful businessman, served as cochairmen. At that time, there was also research around a lightweight, long-­ lasting battery. There was much discussion about funding this research in a laboratory. I thought the best place to do this would be at Pantex. This would require expansion of the facility, which meant more jobs for the people of Amarillo and the surrounding towns. Business leaders came together in support of the laboratory, and I arranged hearings in Amarillo with members of Congress and the Department of Energy. The hearing was held at the Amarillo Civic Center due to the number of people in attendance. I met with both President Clinton and Vice President Gore, gained their support, and passed resolutions to encourage the Department of Energy to place the laboratory in Amarillo. It was critical to name the laboratory the “Pantex National Research Laboratory.” That distinction was important because the “national” designation would secure funding of the facility for the long term. 292 • The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary was generally opposed and not in favor of the project. She wanted it to be just a research laboratory under control of the Department of Energy, whereby they would control all the decision-making without having to ask for congressional approval. I continued to work for the establishment of the Pantex National Research Laboratory, and eventually Congress approved the whole package. A press release was issued announcing that Secretary O’Leary and I would be making an announcement in Amarillo. Secretary O’Leary flew into Amarillo and reserved a suite at the hotel where the press conference would be held. I arrived at the hotel about an hour before the press conference and called Secretary O’Leary to see if she needed anything. She said she wanted to talk to me in advance of the press conference. We met, and she told me that she was not in favor of the research laboratory and would not announce it as the “Pantex National Research Laboratory.” “Congress and the president understand that it is a national research laboratory,” I reminded her. President Clinton shakes my hand at his first state of the Union speech. Courtesy of the Sarpalius family. Losing What You Love • 293 “I am not going to announce that,” she replied. I picked up the phone and called the White House and explained the situation to President Clinton. “Put her on the phone right now!” he demanded. I held out the phone to the secretary and said, “The president wants to talk to you.” She made her case with the president and then handed the phone back to me. “Call me back after the press conference,” the president told me. “It will be called the Pantex National Research Laboratory.” The secretary and I headed toward the press conference with her staff trailing us, surrounded by media. We sat at the table together and the press conference began. The two of us explained the need to find alternate energy sources to oil and gas. We told the press that this laboratory was a long-­ term investment in the future. The first question asked by a reporter was regarding the name of the laboratory. The secretary turned to me and said, “Congressman, what will be the name of the research laboratory?” I proudly announced, “The Pantex National Research Laboratory.” Bill Gilland and Jim Simms, as cochairs of this committee, had spent two years working with me on this issue to build the support for it. It was a great opportunity for local economic growth and represented a significant investment in the Texas Panhandle. Pantex was already Amarillo’s largest employer, and with the addition of the laboratory, the number of jobs would triple. v President Clinton and Vice President Gore, along with their...


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MARC Record
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