The Washington State Department of Ecology is proposing eliminating most grants for public participation for Hanford interest groups as the state faces budget cuts.
Public participation grants for Hanford-related use already had been awarded to four agencies to be spent over two years starting July 1, 2011.
They included $160,000 to Heart of America Northwest and its research center; $120,000 to Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility; $90,000 to Columbia Riverkeeper and $90,000 to Hanford Challenge. None are based in the Mid-Columbia.
If the state decides it does not have the money to continue the grants, it still expects to be able to reimburse money spent by the groups from July 1 to Nov. 4.
Groups across the state have been notified that the state is considering cutting its public participation grants for the 2011-13 biennium from the $2.5 million already authorized to $361,454.
The 40 projects offered grants have been scored by a committee and potentially five might be funded despite further budget cuts. They include Hanford Challenge, plus projects focusing on the Spokane River, Skagit beaches, the Duwamish River and Cedar Grove composting near Marysville.
Money for the public participation grants comes from the Washington Model Toxic Control Act account, which holds money raised by a tax on first possession of hazardous substances. Most money in the fund comes from taxes paid by oil companies, said Laurie Davies, Washington State Department of Ecology Waste 2 Resources Program manager.
About 1 percent of the money in the account is used for public participation grants for programs dealing with the release or a threat of a release of hazardous waste.
Heart of America Northwest said on its website that it uses the grant money to mail citizens' guides and hold workshops. With the threat of the loss of the money, it is doing emergency fundraising.
More than 75 percent of all attendance and comments about Hanford cleanup is generated by Heart of America Northwest and other groups that rely on state public participation grants, it said.
State agencies have submitted proposed budget cuts of up to 15 percent as the state waits for the next revenue forecast Thursday. Gov. Chris Gregoire will use that information to finish preparing a budget plan expected to cut $2 billion in state spending. Then a special legislative session will be held Nov. 28 to deal with the latest revenue shortfall.
The Department of Energy also awarded Community Involvement Grants in 2011, which were administered nationwide by the New Mexico Community Foundation. Among awards were $60,000 to Heart of America Northwest and $55,000 to Hanford Challenge.
However, no federal budget has been approved for fiscal 2012, which started Oct. 1, and Hanford officials do not have information on what grant money could be available for 2012.