News Releases

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell today hit back at the Bush Administration’s short-sighted cuts to the Hanford budget as part of their attempt to pay for Katrina recovery efforts. In a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, President Bush writes:

“As a further measure to ensure fiscal responsibility as we continue our unprecedented response to Hurricane Katrina, I ask the Congress to consider the enclosed request to rescind $2.3 billion from lower-priority Federal programs and excess funds.”

This rescission would cut an additional $100 million from the Hanford vitrification plant.

Murray and Cantwell, longtime Congressional advocates for increased funding for Hanford cleanup today released the following statement:

“For the past five years there has been an unprecedented attack on our nation’s ability to cleanup nuclear waste. Today we know why. The Administration has officially labeled these cleanup efforts as ‘lower-priority federal programs.’

There is no more important priority for the federal government than protecting the health and well-being of all Americans. The cleanup of nuclear waste at Hanford and other sites across the country is a signal about how our nation treats the communities that have sacrificed to protect all of us.

There is nothing fiscally responsible about the Administration’s efforts to rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul attempts at Katrina recovery. If the President were serious about fiscal responsibility he would rethink a short-sighted and dangerous tax cut policy. Denying funding to a national priority like Hanford cleanup, will only lead to increased costs in the long run.

We are deeply concerned to learn that – following a lack of advocacy by the Department of Energy – even more critical funding could be stripped from nuclear waste cleanup at Hanford. Specifically this money would be taken from the construction of the vitrification plant -- critical in the clean up of the site’s most dangerous waste currently stored in tanks near the Columbia River.

The cuts proposed by the Administration endanger the construction of the plant – and undermine an essential government responsibility to safeguard public health.

The Administration has now dropped the ball three times – first by underfunding this critical cleanup within their budget; second by failing to properly advocate for the dollars they did ask for in front of Congress; and now by cutting this national priority to pay for another – Katrina relief.

Given current budget constraints, it will be very difficult to increase funding for cleanup at Hanford. But we will use every tool at our disposal, and fight for every dollar possible to increase this funding and help meet the commitment to cleaning up waste at Hanford.”