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HANFORD: Senator Murray to Energy Secretary: We Need Clear and Consistent Budgets

May 19 2009

At Senate hearing on Energy Budget, Murray calls budget for Hanford and national cleanup efforts insufficient; reiterates call for Secretary Chu to visit Hanford to see cleanup work

AUDIO:  Listen to Senator Murray press Secretary Chu on the Administration’s Hanford budget

Webcast

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, told Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Dr. Steven Chu that the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget for nuclear cleanup and Hanford was insufficient to meet critical cleanup goals. Murray also told Secretary Chu that making meaningful cleanup progress will take clear and consistent budgets each year.  Murray’s statements came during a hearing of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee to consider the Administration’s budget.

“My position is clear and the Administration can expect it to remain consistent.  And that is what I want for these budgets,” Senator Murray told Dr. Chu. “I want budgets that clearly meet the obligations we have to the nation and the states and communities that are home to these cleanup sites.  And I want budgets that consistently make progress toward the goal to clean up the waste.

“Funding highs and lows don’t get us there. But unfortunately that’s what this EM budget consists of.”

Senator Murray has pledged to work to increase funding above the President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2010. In fact, Senator Murray has already worked to pass a Senate Budget resolution that includes $6.5 billion for Environmental Management (EM) – the account that includes funding for cleanup efforts nationwide, including Hanford. The President’s budget includes $5.8 billion for EM in 2010. The final spending level will be set in legislation that will pass through the Energy and Water Appropriations Committee later this year.

Senator Murray’s full comments to Secretary Chu follow:

Secretary Chu,  you and I have spoken on a number of occasions about the  legal and moral obligation the federal government has to clean up the waste left behind from World War II and the Cold War.  We talked about it prior to your confirmation, we talked about it at the Budget Committee hearing, and we talked about it again after the release of the FY 2010 budget proposal.

My position is clear and the Administration can expect it to remain consistent.  And that is what I want for these budgets.

I want budgets that clearly meet the obligations we have to the nation and the states and communities that are home to these cleanup sites.  And I want budgets that consistently make progress toward the goal to clean up the waste. 

Funding highs and lows don’t get us there. But unfortunately that’s what this EM budget consists of.

First, let’s talk about the highs.  In the Office of River Protection it is good to see an increase for the work at the Tank Farm.  After years and years of pushing off the infrastructure needs, there is much work to be done. Clearly, you are putting a focus back on that work.  And I expect you to remain consistent and will look for this as the new base level of funding for the tanks.

However, the same effort is not as evident with Richland Operations where there is a reduction in funding below the FY09 and FY08 appropriated amounts.

This reduction does not represent a consistent effort for a stable and compliant budget.  I would like to take a moment to remind you that the Economic Recovery funds were meant to make up for lost time and create new, good paying jobs - not to make amends for this year. 

The River Corridor Closure project is up however the Central Plateau is down. Reducing the active footprint of the site is a large task that requires consistent budgets.    I encourage you to keep that in mind while planning for the next budget so that we don’t find ourselves in this position again. 

Hanford will not be cleaned up in the next five or ten years. Funds need to be managed thoughtfully with the long-term mission in mind. Stable budgets allow for planning to get the job done safely and successfully.

I also want to mention the HAMMER facility on site at Hanford that offers top notch training for those who take on the dangerous work of clean up. I am hopeful that when you visit the site you’ll get the opportunity to stop by HAMMER and see what they are doing to promote a safe working environment.

And I am still looking forward to your visit.  You can see not only the progress on the site, but also the worker safety training going on at HAMMER and how PNNL factors into clean up.

I have a number of detailed questions for you and your staff regarding the Environmental Management program including support for HAMMER and B Reactor that we can discuss when there is more time.  I will also submit questions for the record. 

But while I have you Secretary Chu, I would like to say that I am pleased to see an overall increase for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.  We’ve got to move forward toward a clean energy economy and this will help keep us on that path.

And now that you have spent some time at the Department, I’m looking forward to hearing an update on the Water Power Program.  As you know, the Program received $40 million in FY09 and the President is requesting a 25 percent reduction in funding, which I am very concerned about.  We must continue investment in our existing hydro facilities to allow us to use those to supplement more unpredictable sources like wind and solar.  And we must also increase our work to develop new marine and hydrokinetic technologies.

Can you tell me what goals you have for the water power program, specifically with regard to both marine and hydrokinetic technologies and also with regard to conventional hydropower?