News Releases

Murray Grills Administration Over Cuts to Hanford Cleanup

Apr 18 2002

Concerned about funding levels for personnel and training as well as the decision to remove site director, Harry Boston

WASHINGTON, D.C.) – At a special hearing on the Department of Energy's budget for Environmental Management, which she Chaired, Sen. Patty Murray today questioned the Administrations' budget proposal and criticized its efforts to cut personnel for Hanford cleanup.

At the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Murray also expressed serious concerns about the Energy Department's decision to replace the site manager at the Office of River Protection, Harry Boston.

Testifying before Murray's committee was Jessie Roberson, the Assistant Energy Secretary for Environmental Management.

"All of these decisions by the Bush administration do not give me a lot of confidence that the Department of Energy is on the right track," said Murray.

Murray asked Roberson why the Administration would cut the workforce at the Office of River Protection (ORP) from 129 employees to 109 employees, even though Hanford officials believe ORP needs more workers, not fewer.

Murray also questioned the Administration's decision to eliminate all funding for HAMMER, a training facility that prepares workers to properly handle toxic nuclear waste.

Roberson replied that it would make up the HAMMER funding by taking it out of other Hanford cleanup priorities in the budget.

And Murray criticized the Administration's decision to replace ORP site manager Harry Boston over the objections of Washington state's two U.S. Senators and Congressman Hastings (R-Wash.). She noted that this is a critical juncture for the ORP, given that the groundbreaking for the vitrification plant – to turn liquid waste into stable glass logs – was only 6 months away.

Roberson responded that Department of Energy officials 3,000 miles away in Washington, D.C. concluded that it wanted someone with "a different set of skills."

Though the Bush administration has repeatedly tried to cut funding for Hanford cleanup, Sen. Murray has fought to restore the cuts.

Last year, when the Bush Administration proposed a $400 million cut to Hanford cleanup, Sen. Murray worked with her colleagues to restore the cuts. This year, the Administration has again proposed a significant cut, but has promised to submit a request for additional funds to make up for its shortfall.