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Letter to Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Kent Conrad and Ranking Member Judd Gregg

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Brown: Additional Funding Must Be Provided To DOE Environmental Management Program

Today, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-H), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Larry Craig (R-ID), Bob Corker (R-TN), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Gordon Smith (R-OR) sent a joint letter to the Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Ranking Member Judd Gregg (R-NH) to address additional funding needs for the Department of Energy's Environmental Management (EM) program. The EM program was created in 1989 to safely manage the cleanup of nuclear weapons production sites, and focuses on completing clean up of these sites efficiently and effectively.

In 2003, the Bush Administration, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) agreed to increase the EM program's budget to accelerate cleanup activities, and used funds to close several sites including: Rocky Flats in Colorado and the Portsmouth and Fernald sites both in Ohio. As these sites closed, funds were supposed to become available and distributed among larger sites, with long-term cleanup challenges, such as Hanford. However, Portsmouth's official cleanup has yet to begin.

"The funding shortfalls at the Piketon site this year are reflective of what is happening around the country. Our communities are all in this together. I look forward to working with the Senate as we continue the clean up at Piketon, Mound, and the entire DOE nationwide complex," Brown said.

"For years the Administration has talked about accelerated cleanup of waste at nuclear sites. Once again, their budget request doesn't reflect the reality on the ground. Cleaning up these sites is about our national security and the safety and security of our communities," said Cantwell, a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Despite successful closures of the Rocky Flats in Colorado and the Fernald site, including Hanford in Idaho, Idaho National Laboratory, Oak Ridge in Tennessee and Savannah River in South Carolina have not received the rolled over budget dollars they were promised and were cut out of the program altogether. According to the DOE, in 2001, the EM program had a budget of $6.1 billion. The budget peaked in 2005 to $7.3 billion. For 2009, the program is proposed to be cut nearly $2 billion from its 2006 levels from $7.3 billion to $5.5 billion.

[The text of the letter follows below]

February 27, 2008

The Honorable Kent Conrad The Honorable Judd Gregg
Chairman Ranking Member
Senate Budget Committee Senate Budget Committee
624 Dirksen Senate Office Building 624 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington., D.C. 120510 Washington., D.C. 120510

Dear Chairman Conrad and Ranking Member Gregg:

We are writing to respectfully request that, as part of the fiscal year 2009 Budget Resolution, additional funding be provided for the Department of Energy's Environmental Management Program.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has clearly stated it has a strategic responsibility to protect the environment by providing responsible resolutions to the environmental legacy of the production of U.S. nuclear weapons, and to complete cleanup of the contaminated nuclear weapons manufacturing and testing sites across the United States.

The Environmental Management (EM) program was created in 1989 to "manage safely the cleanup of the environmental legacy from 50 years of nuclear weapons production," focusing on "risk reduction and completing cleanup more efficiently and cost effectively." In 2003 and 2004, DOE announced plans to accelerate cleanup of smaller sites such as Rocky Flats, Portsmouth, and Fernald with a clear understanding that, once these sites were cleaned up, additional funding would be transferred and applied to the large complex sites such as Hanford, Idaho Falls, Oak Ridge, and Savannah River. This is, in part, because accelerated cleanup saves money over the long run.

With that expectation, the DOE-EM budget grew to $7.3 billion in fiscal year 2005. DOE declared Rocky Flats "clean" on October 13, 2005, coinciding with the beginning of fiscal year 2006. Instead of transferring funding that had been dedicated to cleaning up the smaller cites to the large sites, the EM budget dropped by $700 million to $6.6 billion for fiscal year 2006. In the three following fiscal year budgets, EM funding has been reduced by another $1.1 billion, to $5.5 billion for fiscal year 2009, and the largest and most hazardous DOE site cleanups, and other sites like Portsmouth, have suffered, putting the public at risk.

Long-range schedules for cleanup at all of these sites continue to slip because of reduced funding. We have repeatedly seen that the longer cleanup is extended, the more cleanup costs due to more stringent security requirements, increasing maintenance costs on facilities and equipment that are already more than 60 years old, and escalating operational costs.

Since the creation of the DOE-EM program in 1989, Congress and the Administration have focused attention on cleaning up these legacy nuclear wastes. Yet, DOE has projected that at the current rate, these major sites will not be cleaned up until sometime near 2050. The sites will have been in various stages of "cleanup" much longer than they were involved in manufacturing materials needed to help win the Cold War. We, the members of the Senate Nuclear Waste Cleanup Caucus, feel strongly that it is the responsibility of the Secretary of Energy, and the Administration, to request full funding for cleaning up these legacy wastes. We are gravely concerned about the continuing downward trend in the Environmental Management budget.

We have urged DOE to step up to our mutual responsibility, and request funding for EM at a level that will allow cleanup progress to continue. Absent the proper budget request from DOE, we respectfully request that DOE-EM funding for fiscal year 2009 be increased to the fiscal year 2006 level of $6.6 billion.

Sincerely,

U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell, Jeff Bingaman, Sherrod Brown, Larry Craig, Bob Corker, Lamar Alexander, and Gordon Smith


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