(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) continued her fight against the Bush Administration's plan to cut funding and delay cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the Tri-Cities. Over the past five years, Murray has been the leading champion for Hanford cleanup funding and is co-chair of the Senate's bipartisan Nuclear Cleanup Caucus.
Speaking today at a hearing of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, Murray told Paul Golan (Deputy Assistant Energy Secretary for Environmental Management), that Hanford will suffer the biggest share of the Administration's cut to the Environmental Management program (54 percent).
"This fact, combined with the absolute lack of sound rationale for the majority of Hanford budget cuts, can easily lead one to believe Washington state was targeted by the Department of Energy and the Office of Management and Budget," Murray said.
Murray also criticized the Bush Administration's plan to cut funding for Tank Farm activities by $89 million in FY 2006 – and then cripple tank farm work after September 30, 2005.
"Tank farm activities going on this year can and should proceed in fiscal year 2006. There is absolutely no legal or technical reason that these activities must suddenly end September 30th," Murray said, noting that any legal uncertainty about the program's future was created by the Department of Energy itself.
Murray also expressed her hope that relations will improve between Washington state and the U.S. Department of Energy. Murray referenced the recent nominations of Clay Sell to be Deputy Energy Secretary and David Garman to be the Energy Department's Undersecretary as positive steps.
Today's hearing comes one month after President Bush released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2006. His budget cuts Hanford funding by $297 million ($148 million from the Office of River Protection and $149 million from the Richland Operations Office). The same day the President released his budget, Senator Murray and Cantwell sent a letter to President Bush protesting the cuts.
On February 8th, Murray issued a statement saying, in part, "Hanford area residents and workers deserve a strong federal commitment to nuclear waste cleanup. The President’s budget not only breaks that promise, but puts the safety and economic security of this community at risk.”
Senator Murray's full statement from today's hearing follows:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I say it every year, but I again want to thank you and Senator Reid for your leadership on this subcommittee. The jurisdiction of the subcommittee touches on so much that is critical to my state including the Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and -- most prominent today -- the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. I appreciate of the time and consideration you, Senator Reid, and the entire subcommittee staff give to matters effecting Washington state. Now, we both have to get to the Budget Committee that is beginning its mark up at this time, so I’ll try to be brief. I first want to recognize that Senator Reid wished to be here, but Budget Committee and floor matters required his attention. I know Senator Reid, myself and others likely have statements and questions they would like to have been able to give in person, but will not be able to. I ask that Senators be given an appropriate amount of time to submit these for the record and response from the Department.
Mr. Chairman, I’d like to make some comments about the budget for Hanford and the Environmental Management program. By my calculation, the Defense Environmental Management program has been reduced by $548 million. Hanford alone would suffer 54% of this cut. This massive funding cut is dramatically disproportionate to Hanford’s share of the overall EM program. This fact, combined with the absolute lack of sound rationale for the majority of Hanford budget cuts, can easily lead one to believe Washington state was targeted by DOE and OMB.
Let just point out one budgeting issue that makes no sense. The budget cuts the tank farm program by $89 million on the basis of legal uncertainty caused by the reclassification issue. I will move beyond the fact that DOE itself created this legal uncertainty. The fact is that tank farm activities going on this year can and should proceed in fiscal year 2006. There is absolutely no legal or technical reason that these activities must suddenly end September 30th. So, this budget is already undercutting a scope of work that has yet to be awarded. There are other examples of this budget’s lack of integrity and intelligence when it comes to Hanford, but I will not spell them all out.
Rather, Mr. Chairman, let me end with my hope that communication and agreement between Washington state and the Department of Energy will improve. This hope is largely based upon the nominations of Clay Sell and David Garman. I respect the work they did here in the Senate, their willingness to listen, and their forthright communication. I hope their confirmations will help us move past the political and legal games and back to a strong partnership between Washington state and the Department of Energy. But, regardless of improving relationships between the State and the Department of Energy, I do not accept the Department’s rationale for these cuts and I will urge this subcommittee to maintain the federal government’s moral and legal obligation to Washington state and the Hanford communities.