The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a package of more than $17 billion in spending cuts, including ones the Department of Energy has warned could slow construction of a new science lab at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and have a “real and direct” impact on cleanup programs.
Republicans have tried to paint the department’s warnings as no more than political posturing, but DOE kept the pressure up even as the committee prepared to vote.
Thomas Grumbly, who heads DOE’s cleanup programs, said in a letter to the committee chairman that the $45 million cut in non-defense environmental restoration and management programs will “have real and direct impact on our ability to deal with serious environmental and safety issues at 90 sites in 26 states.
“This is not a ‘Washington Monument’ as some individuals have suggested. There is no mysterious overhead account from which these cuts can be taken painlessly. These cuts will have consequences.”
Attached to the letter was a list of sites that could be affected, including Hanford. Projects at Hanford that could fall into this category include the Fast Flux Test Facility and several research and development facilities in the 300 Area.
Grumbly said the impact of the $45 million in cuts would be “particularly severe” because it was taken from the non-defense portion of his budget and would apply at the midpoint of the fiscal year. By Grumbly’s calculations, the committee’s action would be tantamount to a 17 percent cut in non-defense cleanup funding.
The committee also made a $15 million “general reduction” in biological and environmental research. Backers of the reduction have said it should apply across-the-board to all such programs.
But the department said it would delay construction of the Environmental and Molecular Science Laboratory at Hanford and the Human Genome Laboratory.
Jack Bagley, a vice president for Battelle-Northwest, disagreed.
Rep. Richard “Doc” Hastings, R-Wash., said that he did not think any of the cuts would have much of an effect at Hanford and that DOE was feeling the pressure from those who want to do away with the department and those who want to slice its budget severely.