A budget bill that restores a proposed cut to the Hanford Richland Operations Office next year has been released by the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.
"I was very disappointed when the president's budget proposal for 2015 included nearly $100 million in cuts to the Hanford cleanup project, so I'm thrilled that I was able to restore these critical funds in the Senate bill," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
The Senate bill would add $93 million to the administration's budget proposal for the Richland Operations Office.
That would bring spending for the Richland Operations Office to $941 million. The bill also includes $1.2 billion for the DOE Hanford Office of River Protection for a total of almost $2.2 billion. That does not include security spending, which comes from a different part of the federal budget.
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The proposed budget would be about $24 million more than current spending.
Language in the bill directs the restored money to be spent on work that would have gone undone, including removal of radioactive sludge from the K West Basin, treatment of groundwater, safe storage of cesium and strontium capsules, cleanup work at the Plutonium Finishing Plant and cleanup in the 300 Area just north of Richland. It also directs that money be restored for community and regulatory support, which includes the Hanford Advisory Board.
The release of the bill comes shortly before the Senate takes its summer recess from Aug. 4 to Sept. 5. The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.
It is doubtful that the full Senate will pass a budget before fiscal 2015 starts, given the limited time the Senate will be in session this fiscal year, said Gary Petersen, vice president for Hanford programs for the Tri-City Development Council.
But getting the Department of Energy spending bill out of subcommittee is "a great start," he said.
One likely scenario is that fiscal year 2015 will start with a continuing resolution to allow spending to continue at the current level and then members of the House and Senate will meet in conference to hash out a compromise omnibus spending bill.
The Senate subcommittee bill, which also may be approved by the Energy and Water Appropriations Committee by the end of the current fiscal year, will provide a starting point for Senate negotiators.
The House has passed a spending bill covering Hanford that would restore $25 million proposed to be cut from the current spending level for the Richland Operations Office, thanks to the efforts of Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash. The Richland Operations Office is responsible for all Hanford cleanup except for the underground tanks holding 56 million gallons of radioactive waste and the vitrification plant being built to treat the tank waste for disposal. Those are the responsibility of the Office of River Protection.
The House bill would cut Office of River Protection spending proposed in the administration's budget request by $23 million, bringing it back to about the current spending level.
The Senate bill would keep the administration's proposed spending increase, which would be used to make progress toward a proposed plant outside the vitrification plant. It would pretreat liquid waste to prepare it to be sent directly to the vit plant's Low Activity Waste Facility to be glassified, allowing some waste treatment to start before the vit plant's Pretreatment Facility is finished.
More work will be needed to get a Hanford budget approved "but securing a strong funding level for Hanford in the Senate bill is vitally important to ensure Hanford gets the federal resources it needs for the coming year," Murray said.
-- Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @HanfordNews