Washington leadership is pressing for responsible funding of Hanford environmental cleanup as some House officials consider cuts to reduce federal spending.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, a Republican, have sent a letter to some members of the House Appropriations Committee, including Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., chairman of the Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee.
In addition Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., signed first among 21 representatives on a letter to the subcommittee's leadership, urging responsible budgets for Hanford and other Department of Energy nuclear cleanup sites.
The letters were sent amid talk that the subcommittee leadership is considering cutting as much as $600 million from the $5.4 billion for defense site environmental cleanup already approved by the House Armed Services Committee for fiscal 2012, said Gary Petersen, vice president of Hanford programs for the Tri-City Development Council.
"We are acutely aware of the budget crisis facing our nation" and that money for most federal programs will be cut, said the letter signed by Hastings.
But spending on Hanford and other DOE environmental cleanup "is not about new or expanded government -- it's about meeting legal commitments that the federal government has already agreed to," the letter said.
The potential cut to the fiscal 2012 budget comes after spending was cut by $197 million in the continuing resolution for the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.
How that cut likely will be spread among Hanford and other cleanup sites is expected to be announced this week.
The letter from Gregoire and Otter, on behalf of the Western Governors' Association, said DOE weapon site cleanup must be funded at responsible levels to relieve the environmental and financial liabilities for future generations.
"Reduced or unreliable funding will likely result in increased costs in out years from site contamination spreading as well as failures to comply with binding commitments made to states," the governors' letter said.
The budget level for fiscal 2012 will not only determine whether Hanford and other sites can meet their legally binding deadlines that year but also determine their ability to meet milestones already set for years into the future, said the letter signed by Hastings.
Among other representatives signing with Hastings were Washington Democrats Norm Dicks, Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen, Adam Smith and Jim McDermott; Washington Republican David Reichert and Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer.