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Public Statements

Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MATHESON. This amendment would add $9.6 million to the Department of Energy's nondefense environmental cleanup account, thereby restoring the amount that was cut from the previous year for the small sites associated with this program. This will be offset by taking money from the National Nuclear Security Administration's weapons activities account, which in this bill right now has an increase of just over $298 million relative to last year.

The funding for the small sites in the nondefense environmental cleanup accounts supports activities across the country that address the legacy resulting from civilian nuclear energy research and uranium mining, and it is critical that the Department of Energy have the resources necessary to meet its obligation to clean contaminated sites across the country in a timely manner.

I know it's tough to come up with these appropriations bills, and I think the committee has done a nice job of trying to balance many things. I acknowledge and I support the increase in funding for the NNSA weapons modernization efforts. I believe that directing a small portion of the $298 million increase over the FY 12 levels towards cleanup of small sites around the country is worth consideration here today.

This is not an attack of the work of the NNSA, but rather an amendment to increase the efficiency of the small-site cleanup effort undertaken by the Department of Energy. The $9.6 million represents a fraction of 1 percent of the total funding of NNSA weapons activities that will be received in this bill.

I think we want to do this funding and maintain this funding because it ensures the progress of these sites can continue. Let's remember these small sites are shovel-ready projects directly employing hundreds of people at various sites across the country.

While this is for all sites, I'll talk about one location of which I'm familiar because it's in my congressional district, near Moab. It's a site that at one point had 16 million tons of radioactive material. It's on the banks of the Colorado River. During an environmental impact statement review it was determined that it was with an absolute certainty that at some point, if this pile is not moved, a flood event will flush this downstream. There are roughly 25 million users downstream of the Colorado River in Nevada, Arizona, and southern California.

What I find interesting is if we're looking to reduce funding for these small projects, we end up increasing the proportion of what's left for fixed costs, for administrative costs. In the case of the project in Utah, the contract that was just let by the Department of Energy, 25 percent of all moneys were just on administrative costs; and that means that we're spending a significant portion not moving material.

The thing about these small projects is there is an end in sight. We can get this done. We can knock this project out if we aggressively fund it, and I think on a lifecycle basis you actually are spending less taxpayer dollars if we adequately fund these small sites.

My concern about funding of small-site remediation is not unique to me. In fact, the committee in its own report of this bill on page 100 mentions this issue about small sites. It says:

The committee remains concerned about the lack of remediation activity taking place around the country at various Department-sponsored facilities and small sites classified as under the responsibility of the Department.

So I know we all care about this. I know we do. I'm just trying to point out, at least in my State we have one of these sites whereby shrinking of the funding I think we extend the life of this project for more years. I think we'll end up spending more taxpayer dollars on a life-cycle basis at the project as a result, and I would submit that it merits consideration to see if we can do this small plus-up in the environmental cleanup account for small sites.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.


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