The House Rules Committee on Thursday rejected consideration of amendments offered by Democrats to block changes to the health and safety oversight of nuclear weapons facilities.
The Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council joined national labor organizations opposing changes to safety oversight and requirements included in the House Defense Authorization bill for fiscal 2013. HAMTC believes the changes would weaken safety protections for workers at Hanford.
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., disagrees with that interpretation of the bill.
Most of the changes would apply to the National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, which is partially independent of the Department of Energy. Hanford is under the DOE Office of Environmental Management, which technically is not part of NNSA, but reports to the undersecretary of nuclear security, who heads NNSA.
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The bill also would make changes to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which is charged with identifying safety problems at Hanford and other DOE sites.
The Obama administration issued a statement of administration policy earlier this week, saying that provisions in the bill "severely hamper external, independent oversight" by the defense board.
"I am deeply disappointed that House Republicans are intent on dramatically reducing safety protections at nuclear weapons facilities," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., in a statement.
The bill would strip a system of worker protections based on clear, concise, non-negotiable requirements that holds contractors accountable for safety, according to Democrats.
The energy secretary would be stripped of oversight and enforcement authority and contractors would have more authority to police themselves, according to Democrats.
The House defense authorization bill continued to be debated Thursday night, with a vote on the bill expected today.
An amendment filed by Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, and supported by Hastings is expected to be considered.
The amendment would clarify that "adequate protection" is the nuclear safety standard for defense nuclear facilities and that nuclear safety policies, regulations, analysis and recommendation should be risk based.
Nothing in the defense authorization bill would change DOE safety standards for Hanford or authority over safety standards at Hanford, said Jessica Gleason, spokeswoman for Hastings.
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