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Senator Retreats From Cap On Hanford Funds But Lawmakers Say That Spending Will Be Cut And Tri-Party Agreement Junked

Sen. J. Bennett Johnston backed off a proposal to cap funding for Hanford cleanup at about half current levels.

But the Louisiana Democrat and other members of the Senate Energy Committee made it clear Wednesday spending would be cut and the Tri-Party Agreement with the state junked.

Washington Gov. Mike Lowry and Attorney General Christine Gregoire, however, said it would be a mistake to scrap the agreement that oversees the cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state. In separate letters to the committee, they defended the agreement though admitted improvements could be made.

Two weeks ago, Johnston was said to be considering capping Hanford spending at about $800 million in legislation he was writing designed to overhaul the cleanup program.

But on Wednesday, Johnston said he didn’t expect the legislation to include any specific mention of funding except for, perhaps, a reference to “whatever sums are necessary.”

“We don’t know what it will cost,” Johnston said during a hearing on a new report on the Hanford cleanup.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she had talked with Johnston on Tuesday and he had assured her no cap would be included in his legislation. While Johnston may have dropped plans to cap funding in his bill, such a cap could be imposed later in the appropriations committee. Johnston serves on the energy and water development appropriations subcommittee which has jurisdiction over the Department of Energy’s cleanup program.

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