A bipartisan deal to fund the federal government through September would provide a solid budget for the Hanford nuclear reservation if approved this week.
The proposed budget for the current fiscal year would be $2.3 billion, plus some additional money for costs such as security, according to the agreement worked out Sunday night by Republican and Democrat negotiators.
It matches the budget totals that Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., worked to include a year ago in the proposed Senate version of the fiscal 2017 budget. Just five months of the fiscal year remain, with no budget approved.
“Every year it’s an uphill battle to make sure the federal government follows through on its moral and legal commitment to clean up Hanford, so I’m glad the final deal we hammered out includes robust funding that provides certainty for the Tri-Cities and our state,” Murray said. “But I’m already on guard for next year.”
About 9,200 people work at Hanford, in addition to some sub-contracted workers.
The U.S. House could take up the budget proposal by Wednesday and the U.S. Senate could have it by Thursday.
President Donald Trump is expected to release his budget request for Hanford and the rest of the federal government for the next fiscal year in late May.
The proposed budget for the current fiscal year would restore $114 million of the $191 million that the administration of former President Barack Obama proposed last spring to cut from the budget of the Department of Energy’s Hanford Richland Operations Office projects. Its budget would be $840 million.
We are pleased with the proposed funding levels for Hanford cleanup.
David Reeploeg, TRIDEC
The restored money would be available for work to clean contaminated groundwater or protect the aquifer; for remaining cleanup work along the Columbia River, including a highly radioactive spill beneath the 324 Building and the high hazard 618-10 Burial Ground. And it would keep infrastructure across the site, some of it dating back to World War II, in working order to support environmental cleanup tasks.
The proposed budget also would add $10 million to the Community and Regulatory Support budget line. It should be enough money for DOE to make its full payment in lieu of taxes, called PILT, to local governments that depend on the money to make up for taxes they would collect if Hanford land was privately owned.
Much of PILT goes to schools, particularly the Richland School District, and also to county road maintenance, help for indigent veterans and public health.
The Richland Operations Office is responsible for all Hanford work, with the exception of the Hanford tank farms holding 56 million gallons of radioactive waste and the vitrification plant being built to treat the waste for disposal.
Those are the responsibility of the DOE Office of River Protection, which would received about $1.5 billion for the current fiscal year, including an $86 million increase requested by the Obama administration.
I fully expected to be fighting once again to hold the new administration accountable and make sure it continues to keep the federal government’s promise to the Hanford community.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Much of the increase would be used toward construction of a new facility that would prepare low activity radioactive waste to be turned into a stable glass form at the vitrification plant. It would allow some waste treatment to start long before parts of the plant handling high-level radioactive waste are operating.
“We are pleased with the proposed funding levels for Hanford cleanup,” said David Reeploeg, vice president for federal programs at the Tri-City Development Council. He credited the work of Murray, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.
The anticipated passage of the federal funding bill holds promise that Congress returning to a regular schedule of approving annual funding, Reeploeg said. Adequate and predictable funding is vital to keep costs and schedules in check at Hanford and allow key projects to proceed as planned.
“I fully expected to be fighting once again to hold the new administration accountable and make sure it continues to keep the federal government’s promise to the Hanford community” as talks move on to the fiscal 2018 budget, Murray said.
TRIDEC also was pleased by what the proposed fiscal 2017 budget could hold for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, which relies on and competes for a variety of funding from DOE and other government agencies. The DOE national lab in Richland has an annual operating budget of nearly $1 billion.
The DOE Office of Science would receive nearly $5.4 billion under the new budget proposal. It would be $180 million less than requested by the Obama administration last spring, but $42 million more than the fiscal 2016 budget, according to TRIDEC.
DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability would receive more money than requested by the Obama administration for cybersecurity, a key program for PNNL.
DOE programs for energy efficiency and renewable energy also could receive more money that approved for fiscal 2016.