Tuesday, March 06, 2007
LANL: Not a neighbor you want to have living upstream of you
Cleanup Tied to Lab Funds
By John Arnold, ABQ Journal Staff Writer, Tuesday, March 6, 2007
An "untenable budget situation" is delaying environmental cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and a cleanup agreement between the federal and state governments may need to be changed to reflect those federal budget restraints, according to U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.
He said in a news release issued Monday that LANL is "stuck between a rock and a hard place."
"It must make more progress (on cleanup), but its hands have been tied with insufficient funding and now a steady stream of fines imposed by the state," he said.
But state Environment Secretary Ron Curry said poor environmental management at LANL, not lack of funding, is the root of cleanup delays and state fines.
Curry said the state does not intend to renegotiate the so-called consent order, a legally binding agreement that requires the U.S. Department of Energy to investigate and clean up decades worth of contamination across the lab's 40-square-mile property by 2015.
Signed in 2005, the order lays out cleanup milestones and requires the federal government to pay fines if LANL fails to meet them. The state has so far fined LANL $240,000 for consent order violations, according to the Environment Department.
"Those penalties have arisen because of a lack of proper environmental management and a lack of embracing the order by the people in charge of environmental cleanup for (LANL contractor Los Alamos National Security)," Curry said.
Lab spokesman James Rickman declined to comment on funding issues or the root causes of the cleanup delays, but he said that LANL remains committed to the consent order.
"We will continue to try our best to meet all future consent order requirements and milestones," he said.
The Bush administration is requesting $140 million in its fiscal year 2008 budget for LANL cleanup. Domenici called that amount, similar to 2007 funding levels, insufficient.
Domenici said that he met with Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to discuss LANL's cleanup situation and funding. Bodman acknowledged the problem and said he would instruct DOE officials to meet with state officials "to try to set new clean-up responsibilities that are consistent with realistic budget requests," according to Domenici.
Reached by phone late Monday, DOE spokeswoman Megan Barnett could not confirm Domenici's characterization of his discussions with Bodman, but she said that LANL's cleanup program "has faced technical and efficiency challenges and contractor performance issues."
"We are committed to working with state regulators to get cleanup progress back on track," she said.
Domenici plans to address LANL cleanup during a congressional budget hearing on Wednesday.
Right, Sam. Try to get New Mexico to say, "That's ok DOE. If you can't pay for cleaning up your crap, don't worry about it. It's not all that dirty here anyhow. Oh, and as long as we're on the subject, why don't you just go ahead and ramp up your plutonium pit fabrication operations."
You'd like that, wouldn't you, Sam.
He asked, you say??? Perhaps as a response to a request of the form "I want your resignation on desk when I return" from Anastasio or Van Prooyen.
Environmental Management Testimony of James Rispoli
Environmental Management Testimony of Edward Sproat
New Mexico Business Weekly - 2:53 PM MST Thursday, March 8, 2007
U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-NM, criticized the decline in Department of Energy funding for environmental cleanup activities, saying it is adding billions of dollars to the cost of cleaning contaminated sites at places such as Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Domenici, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, says the DOE's attempt to prioritize cleanups is pushing back completion dates on existing cleanup obligations.
The FY2008 budget request for DOE environmental management cleanup is $5.6 billion, down from $7.3 billion in FY2005. However, the life-cycle cost of cleanup has increased $50 billion over the $173 billion baseline set in 2005, according to Domenici's office. LANL represents about $664 million of that increase.
DOE entered into a consent agreement with the state of New Mexico two years ago for cleanup at the LANL site by 2015.
Domenici says the current rate of funding could mean that deadline will be delayed by two years. The FY2008 budget recommends $140 million for LANL environmental management activities, which is equal to 2007 funding levels, but less than what LANL needs, he says.