The U.S. House has passed the annual bill authorizing military policy that would create a new national park to include Hanford’s B Reactor and possibly other historic Hanford facilities.
The vote Thursday was 300 to 119.
The bill could be voted on next week in the Senate, where Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both D-Wash., have been working to get legislation to create a Manhattan Project Historical Park passed.
Supporters of including B Reactor in a national park believe the end of this session is their best chance to get the park approved.
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“Creation of this park will help ensure that current and future generations get one-of-a-kind glimpses into an important part of our history,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash. “This hard-won victory for the Tri-Cities comes after many years of hard work and would not have been possible without the continued dedication of park supporters and volunteers who made this a reality.”
Hastings, who is retiring at the end of this session, worked to get House approval of the new national park and also helped get other Hanford projects inserted in the bill approved in the House.
The bill would require some access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain on the Hanford Reach National Monument, such as through guided tours, and would require the Department of Energy to transfer 1,641 acres of unused Hanford land for industrial development.
“These lands belong to the American people and it is just plain common sense to allow the public to responsibly visit Rattlesnake Mountain,” Hastings said.
Hanford-area tribes have opposed public tours of Rattlesnake Mountain, saying it is an important religious and cultural area.
The Tri-City Development Council, in cooperation with local governments, requested the transfer of land for industrial use more than three years ago. TRIDEC is designated by DOE as the local agency in charge of reuse of unneeded Hanford facilities and land.
“Hanford lands no longer needed for cleanup should not remain in the hands of the federal government into perpetuity but rather should be returned to the community to sustain our local economy as work at the site is completed,” Hastings said.
The bill also includes a requirement pushed by Colorado leaders that an independent advisory board be created to increase transparency for compensation and medical coverage for workers at DOE sites if workplace exposures are determined to have likely caused illnesses or impairment.
More than $1 billion has been paid to current and former Hanford and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory employees or their survivors under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program.
The advisory board is intended to make sure that benefit applications under Part E of the program, which covers wage loss and impairment, are reviewed quickly and accurately.