Murray Presses DOE Official on Hanford Concerns

Mar 21 2007

Murray questions DOE official in charge of 300 Area replacement project on funding availability and long-term Office of Science plans for project

VIDEO (Murray's questioning begins at 56 minutes and 41 seconds)

(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) expressed her concerns regarding the progress of the Hanford 300 Area replacement project while questioning the Department of Energy's (DOE) Undersecretary of Science, Dr. Raymond Orbach. Dr. Orbach is the DOE official responsible for overseeing the 300 Area replacement project which protects needed 300 Areas facilities and constructs new facilities closer to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's (PNNL) campus. A clear path and funding schedule for the 300 Area project is critical to the cleanup of the Hanford site and the preservation of PNNL missions. Senator Murray, the fourth-ranking member of the Senate leadership, has consistently called for the federal government to maintain its commitment cleaning up the Hanford site.

In her questioning, Senator Murray focused on the need to utilize funding that she has secured for the transition project, including $10 million in the Office of Science for Fiscal Year 2007. Much of that funding is currently being held as a result of new and different Office of Management and Budget (OMB) demands for third-party financing for the project. Senator Murray asked Dr. Orbach what he will be doing to ensure that the project does not slow down because of the OMB demands.

Dr. Orbach told Senator Murray that the DOE will be releasing a plan that he believes meets the requirements for third-party financing within a week. Dr. Orbach also said that he expects a decision to be made by OMB on their proposed third-party financing plan to be made within a month from the DOE release. Senator Murray will be monitoring the timetable that Dr. Orbach set out.

Senator Murray also delved into the Office of Science's long term planning goals as they relate to the 300 Area transition. A recently issued 5-year plan for the Office of Science makes no mention of funding for the transition project. Senator Murray also noted that other federal partners including the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) do not have any funds in their Fiscal Year 08 budget requests for this project.

Dr. Orbach responded that the five year plan came at a "bizarre" time when DOE did not have a Fiscal Year 07 budget. He also mentioned that the budget structure did not give him the opportunity to present and accurate long-term picture.

Dr Orbach responded to Senator Murray's questioning on working with DHS and the NNSA for 2008 funds by saying that he is taking it taking it "one year at a time" and that he "hopes that some resolution will be found."

Senator Murray was not satisfied with the responses that Dr. Orbach provided for many of her questions and will continue to work to provide oversight on the 300 area replacement project.