Rep. Hastings boosts proposed 2014 House budget for Hanford

The House passed an amendment Tuesday that would increase Hanford spending under the proposed House fiscal 2014 budget by $22.5 million.Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., introduced the amendment to restore half of the $45 million cut from the administration’s budget request for the Department of Energy Hanford Richland Operations Office.That brings the proposed House budget closer to the proposed Senate budget, which proposes increasing the administration request for the Richland Operations Office.The additional money added to the House 2014 Energy and Water Appropriations Act would “help enable cleanup to move forward safely, efficiently and in a timely manner,” Hastings said on the floor of the House.Legal deadlines at the Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant likely would be missed under the initial House budget proposal, Hastings said last month.The amendment took the $22.5 million for Hanford from DOE administration funding in Washington, D.C., and from an increase in weatherization assistance.

House rules prevented Hastings from specifying in the amendment that the money would be used specifically for Hanford cleanup within the DOE Office of Environmental Management spending.

However, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, the chairman of the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, joined Hastings on the House floor to make clear that the money was intended for the Hanford Richland Operations Office.

“This increase will put (Hanford) cleanup in a stronger position as Congress continues working toward a final bill to fund the federal government next year,” Hastings said in a statement after leaving the House floor.

If House and Senate appropriation bills both are approved, Hastings’ amendment could help increase the Hanford budget as a conference committee reconciles the differing amounts in the bills.

However, the White House Office of Management and Budget criticized the House bill in a policy statement, saying that President Obama’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill as it was written.

The policy statement did not address DOE environmental cleanup, but said the House bill underfunds critical programs for the nation’s energy future and should not provide support for the Yucca Mountain, Nev., nuclear waste repository.

If there is no budget covering Hanford passed for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, Hanford likely would operate under a continuing resolution.Hastings asked Frelinghuysen how differences between the House and Senate bills should be resolved in the event of a continuing resolution.Frelinghuysen said DOE has flexibility in determining funding levels for specific programs under a continuing resolution.

DOE could pick the spending levels under the House bill in that situation.

Also in floor discussion, Hastings said he would be meeting with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz later this week and would discuss the need for a plan for Hanford’s vitrification plant, where some construction has been stopped until technical issues are resolved.

Hastings’ amendment passed on a voice vote.

An amendment also was proposed Tuesday by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, to cut DOE environmental cleanup spending nationwide by $1.7 billion. The money was proposed to be shifted to DOE science and energy research programs.

Hastings said he understood the importance of science funding as he represents the congressional district with Richland’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

But cutting $1.7 billion from environmental cleanup spending essentially would halt cleanup work, put safety of the sites being cleaned up at risk and eliminate any chance the federal government has of meeting existing legal cleanup commitments to the states, he said.

The amendment to reduce cleanup spending failed on a voice vote.

Consideration of the House 2014 Energy and Water Appropriations Act continues today.