Environmental cleanup of Hanford and other Department of Energy sites risk becoming less of a priority under a reorganization of DOE oversight of that work, according to Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.
After Energy Secretary Steven Chu made the DOE reorganization official Tuesday, Hastings sent him a letter Thursday asking for answers.
"I write today to express my ongoing concerns with the department's reorganization that moves the Office of Environmental Management under the under secretary for nuclear security," he wrote.
Chu said in a memo Tuesday that moving that office plus the Office of Legacy Management and the chief of nuclear safety and staff under the office of the undersecretary for nuclear security will "capitalize on the expertise that exists throughout the department on project management, nuclear materials and waste, and nuclear safety and security."
Hastings said he had yet to receive a compelling answer to the question: How does this move benefit the environmental management program?
That's despite meeting with Under Secretary Tom D'Agostino and David Huizenga, the acting assistant secretary for environmental management.
"I have concerns about the continued lack of transparency and information available regarding the reason and timing for this restructuring," Hastings wrote in his letter to Chu.
The change announced July 8 seemed to be a "snap decision" and was announced with no consultation with Congress, the state of Washington, the Tri-Cities or other public near Hanford or near other DOE sites, Hastings said.
Congress, including Hastings' staff, also was not notified when Chu made the change official Tuesday, Hastings said.
Hastings asked Chu for information on why the change is being made now. He also wants to know how DOE will ensure that money for the environmental management program will not be transferred to the National Nuclear Security Administration, which D'Agostino also heads.
Hastings also asked how the DOE will ensure that a focus on environmental cleanup does not become secondary to the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for the management and security of the nation's nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation and naval reactor programs.
Hastings already has shown his disapproval with an amendment to the House 2012 appropriations bill for the Department of Energy.
Under the House bill, DOE would be prohibited from using fiscal 2012 budget money to reorganize the Office of Environmental Management.
However, it does not block DOE from spending fiscal 2011 budget money on the reorganization. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.