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HANFORD: Murray Warns White House Has Put Tri-Party Agreement at Risk

Apr 21 2005

Murray Questions White House Budget Director, but He Refuses to Guarantee Funding for Hanford Cleanup

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Under tough questioning by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bush Budget Director Josh Bolten today failed to guarantee the level of funding needed to clean up Hanford in a timely manner and meet the legal requirements of the Tri-Party agreement. Bolten appeared before a hearing of the Transportation, Treasury, the Judiciary and Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee, of which Murray is the highest-ranking Democrat.



“The President’s budget really appears to be guaranteeing a delay in the start of the waste treatment plant and that is in violation of the Tri-Party Agreement,” Murray told Bolten at today’s hearing.



The President’s budget for fiscal year 2006 cuts funding for Environmental Management programs by $548 million nationwide. Hanford alone makes up $297 million, or about 54 percent of that cut in funds.



“I want to know why, in my state, are you proposing cuts that are falling so disproportionately on Hanford compared with other sites around the nation,” Murray asked Bolten.



Bolten provided no real answers as to why Hanford is suffering disproportionately under the President’s budget and refused to guarantee that the shortfalls would be made up in future budget requests.



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.



Unofficial transcript of Murray’s questioning follows:



Murray:

The DOE’s contract for waste treatment plants calls for Bechtel to receive $690 million each year. And that steady multi-year stream of $690 million per year was chosen to avoid a situation where there would be huge year-to-year swings in the funding that was required to complete the plant. But for fiscal year 2006 the Administration wants to provide $64 million less than the contract amount. So the President’s budget really appears to be guaranteeing a delay in the start of the waste treatment plant and that is in violation of the Tri-Party Agreement. Can you guarantee me that the Administration will request funding above the $690 million level in future years, so we avoid a delay in the waste treatment plant and keep its word with the Tri-Party Agreement?

Bolten:

I’m not in a position to guarantee you what specific funding levels will be in any particular year, but I would like to come back to you and show you and your staff the spending stream that the Department of Energy has proposed to ensure that we do get the Hanford’s site cleaned up on schedule.

Murray:

I would very much like to meet with you and go through that because I don’t see how on earth we are going to meet the legal requirements of the Tri-Party Agreement with these funding deficits.