By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Discussions over U.S. congressional procedures and the formation of congressional committees dominated Kilmer’s first week in Washington, D.C., the Port Angeles native said during a media conference call.
Kilmer, who secured in the Nov. 6 general election the 6th Congressional District seat vacated by 18-term U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, who is retiring, said Friday that the main topic of his freshman orientation in Washington, D.C., was to determine which committees he wants to be part of and putting his name up for consideration.
He doesn’t expect a decision on which committees he’ll be a part of anytime soon.
“It will be awhile,” Kilmer said when asked when he’ll know to which committees he’ll be assigned.
Kilmer, a 38-year-old former state senator from Gig Harbor, won the 6th Congressional District seat with 59 percent of the districtwide vote to Tacoma businessman Bill Driscoll’s 41 percent, according to the Washington Secretary of State’s Office.
The 6th Congressional District boundaries include Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Kilmer said he put his name in for consideration on the House Armed Services Committee because of his experience with veterans’ issues and the fact that Naval Base Kitsap is within the 6th Congressional District boundaries.
Kilmer, whose family will remain in Washington state, said he expressed interest in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure because of the transportation challenges faced on the North Olympic Peninsula.
“It’d be a very relevant committee for our neck of the woods,” Kilmer said.
Committee assignments are left up to another committee that takes into consideration an individual representative’s preferences, home district and level of seniority, Kilmer said.
When asked about biomass cogeneration plants, which burn wood waste to generate energy, Kilmer said he is generally in support of cogeneration as a way to produce renewable energy.
Biomass plants are being expanded at the Nippon Paper Industries USA plant in Port Angeles and at the Port Townsend Paper Corp. mill. Both are expected to be online next year.
“I think it can be valuable in terms of diversifying our renewable-energy portfolio,” Kilmer said.
Opponents of the plants have raised concerns over the superfine particles expected to be produced from burning wood waste, saying the federal Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, does not currently regulate them.
Kilmer said he would listen to EPA officials if they thought the agency’s regulations needed to change but said he would not necessarily push for stricter rules on superfine particulate emissions.
“At this point, I don’t think that the [EPA] thinks [changes are needed],” Kilmer said.
When it comes to the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Scenic Rivers Act of 2012, legislation co-sponsored by Dicks, D-Belfair, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, that aims to declare 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness and off-limits to logging, Kilmer said he historically has raised concerns about the legislation as proposed and wants to gather more public input before supporting any proposal similar to the Dicks-Murray plan.
“I want some input from stakeholders on that issue,” Kilmer said.
Kilmer said the majority of his time will be spent in Washington, D.C., though he plans to return to the 6th District when his D.C. responsibilities allow.
“My intent is to be home when we’re not voting on things,” he said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.