Hastings urges DOE not to shift Hanford money away from Hanford

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldMarch 25, 2013 

Don't shift money from Hanford to other Department of Energy environmental cleanup sites, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., has warned DOE.

That would be "met with my strongest opposition," he said in a letter sent Monday to Dave Huizenga, DOE senior adviser for environmental management.

DOE is expected to submit a reprogramming package for environmental cleanup programs to Congress, proposing switching money among specific programs or sites for the remaining months of fiscal 2013. The year ends Sept. 30.

The change in how money previously appropriated by Congress is spent does not require a congressional vote.

Hanford will lose 235 workers to layoffs this month and about 2,500 workers will be forced to take weeks of leave by October because of automatic federal budget cuts, called sequestration. But planning for sequestration did not take into account the reprograming package that has yet to be released.

Depending on the reprogramming request details, some workers across the DOE complex could regain recently lost jobs and other workers could lose jobs.

"The sooner the department makes its reprogramming package available, the sooner workers will have some degree of certainty with regard to their employment status and work scope can be planned," Hastings said in the letter.

Impacts of sequestration will be further exacerbated by delaying a complete and transparent reprogramming proposal from DOE, he said.

He does not anticipate an overall reduction in the budgets for work under either DOE Hanford office, the Richland Operations Office or the Office of River Protection, given DOE's legal obligations to the state of Washington, he said.

A court-enforced consent decree and the legally binding Tri-Party Agreement each set deadlines for cleanup at Hanford.

Some reprogramming has been likely, given the stop of construction at the Pretreatment Facility at Hanford's vitrification plant until technical issues are resolved and given concerns about radioactive waste that may be leaking from Hanford's underground tanks, he said.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was told earlier this month that sequestration would mean cutting $171 million from Hanford spending. DOE contractors Mission Support Alliance, CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., Washington River Protection Solutions and Washington Closure Hanford are either laying off workers, requiring furloughs or both.

However, federal employees working directly for DOE at Hanford are not being furloughed or laid off.

DOE is cutting its budget because of sequestration by not filling positions, by continuing to leave open positions that already have gone unfilled for a year or more and by reducing bonuses or awards, training and travel, said DOE spokesman Geoff Tyree.

The DOE Richland Operations will cut back some of the hours for its general support contractors, who typically are given contracts for a certain number of hours each year, he said.

Tyree also pointed out that federal employees have not been given cost-of-living increases for three years, although some have been eligible for raises.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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