Alliance Commends Craig, Simpson on DOE Cleanup Funding
March 6, 2008
The Snake River Alliance commends Senator Larry Craig and Representative Mike Simpson. Both signed letters to the leaders of the Senate and House Budget Committees objecting to the serious cuts in DOE cleanup funding proposed by the Bush Administration for next year.
If the Bush Administration prevails, cleanup funding for the Idaho National Laboratory would be cut about $70 million. The plan is that cleanup of the burial grounds would be cut about $40 million. INL says that in order to keep this high priority project on track, it will move money from construction of the liquid waste treatment plant at the high-level waste tank farm, another high priority project.
While the President’s Budget Request minimizes the effects of the cut, it seems likely that treatment of liquid waste will be delayed a couple of years, which will in turn delay dealing with the highly contaminated soil surrounding the tank farm.
Over the years, budget cuts have complicated the already difficult task of cleaning up the environmental legacy of the Cold War. The Department of Energy now estimates that it will take between $265 billion and $305 billion. INL cleanup was to have been completed by 2035. The completion date is now somewhere between 2035 and 2044.
The Alliance will be in Washington, DC, in April to urge Members of Congress and the Administration 1) to fully fund the DOE’s environmental work to protect the Snake River Aquifer and fulfill this country’s obligation to communities near nuclear weapons sites and 2) to abandon nuclear power and weapons projects that prolong the peril.
Please support the work of the Snake River Alliance during DC Days with a contribution to Box 1731, Boise, ID 83701.
Here are the two letters to the Senate and House committees:
February 27, 2008
The Honorable Kent Conrad The Honorable Judd Gregg
Chairman Ranking Member,
Senate Budget Committee Senate Budget Committee
624 Dirksen Senate Office Building 624 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington., D.C. 120510 Washington., D.C. 120510
Dear Chairman Conrad and Ranking Member Gregg:
We are writing to respectfully request that, as part of the fiscal year 2009 Budget Resolution, additional funding be provided for the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Program.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has clearly stated it has a strategic responsibility to protect the environment by providing responsible resolutions to the environmental legacy of the production of U.S. nuclear weapons, and to complete cleanup of the contaminated nuclear weapons manufacturing and testing sites across the United States.
The Environmental Management (EM) program was created in 1989 to “manage safely the cleanup of the environmental legacy from 50 years of nuclear weapons production,” focusing on “risk reduction and completing cleanup more efficiently and cost effectively.” In 2003 and 2004, DOE announced plans to accelerate cleanup of smaller sites such as Rocky Flats, Portsmouth, and Fernald with a clear understanding that, once these sites were cleaned up, additional funding would be transferred and applied to the large complex sites such as Hanford, Idaho Falls, Oak Ridge, and Savannah River. This is, in part, because accelerated cleanup saves money over the long run.
With that expectation, the DOE-EM budget grew to $7.3 billion in fiscal year 2005. DOE declared Rocky Flats “clean” on October 13, 2005, coinciding with the beginning of fiscal year 2006. Instead of transferring funding that had been dedicated to cleaning up the smaller cites to the large sites, the EM budget dropped by $700 million to $6.6 billion for fiscal year 2006. In the three following fiscal year budgets, EM funding has been reduced by another $1.1 billion, to $5.5 billion for fiscal year 2009, and the largest and most hazardous DOE site cleanups, and other sites like Portsmouth, have suffered, putting the public at risk.
Long-range schedules for cleanup at all of these sites continue to slip because of reduced funding. We have repeatedly seen that the longer cleanup is extended, the more cleanup costs due to more stringent security requirements, increasing maintenance costs on facilities and equipment that are already more than 60 years old, and escalating operational costs.
Since the creation of the DOE-EM program in 1989, Congress and the Administration have focused attention on cleaning up these legacy nuclear wastes. Yet, DOE has projected that at the current rate, these major sites will not be cleaned up until sometime near 2050. The sites will have been in various stages of “cleanup” much longer than they were involved in manufacturing materials needed to help win the Cold War. We, the members of the Senate Nuclear Waste Cleanup Caucus, feel strongly that it is the responsibility of the Secretary of Energy, and the Administration, to request full funding for cleaning up these legacy wastes. We are gravely concerned about the continuing downward trend in the Environmental Management budget.
We have urged DOE to step up to our mutual responsibility, and request funding for EM at a level that will allow cleanup progress to continue. Absent the proper budget request from DOE, we respectfully request that DOE-EM funding for fiscal year 2009 be increased to the fiscal year 2006 level of $6.6 billion.
U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell, Jeff Bingaman, Sherrod Brown, Larry Craig, Bob Corker, Lamar Alexander, and Gordon Smith
Dear Chairman Spratt and Ranking Member Ryan:
As you develop the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget
Resolution, we respectfully request that
additional funding be provided for the
Environmental Management program at the Department of Energy.
We represent communities and states whose
backyards are home to the federal government’s
nuclear waste sites created by our nation’s World
War II and Cold War era nuclear weapons
production program. The Environmental Management
program, which is responsible for cleaning up
these wastes, constitutes the world’s largest and
most complex environmental cleanup effort.
In President Bush’s first term, the Department of
Energy and the Office of Management and Budget
launched an accelerated cleanup initiative that
promised increased Environmental Management
budgets with a focus first on closing several
small sites. It was agreed that after these
sites closed (which they have), the higher level
of funding would be distributed among the larger
sites with longer-term cleanup challenges.
Under the accelerated cleanup initiative, funding
for Environmental Management cleanup peaked at
$7.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2005. Despite
successful closure of several small sites,
however, the shift of funding from closed sites
to the larger sites like Hanford, Idaho, Oak
Ridge and Savannah River did not happen. In
fact, the budget for the Environmental Management
program has dropped over $1 billion in just three
years – falling from $6.6 billion in Fiscal Year
2006 to $5.5 billion in the Fiscal Year 2009
request submitted by President Bush last month.
Under this reduced budget, cleanup would
ultimately take longer and cost taxpayers
more. By delaying cleanup, reduced budgets mean
greater environmental and safety risks and cause
the layoff of hundreds of skilled workers.
The successful closure of small sites, like Rocky
Flats and Mound, has proven that increased
budgets can lead to substantial cleanup progress
and achievements through smart, prudent
management of funding and cleanup
resources. These lessons should be applied to
the remaining sites across our nation so that
cleanup momentum and progress can continue.
The budget level requested by the Administration
will not maintain cleanup momentum, rather it
risks stalling or halting cleanup projects at
some sites. It is for this reason that we ask
your assistance in reversing these proposed cuts
and restoring the nuclear cleanup budget to a
responsible level of $6.6 billion.
Thank you for your consideration of our request.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers
John Duncan, Jr.