Powerful federal lawmakers are in Tri-Cities this week. There’s no better time | Editorial

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland is addressing complex national challenges through scientific research.
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Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland is addressing complex national challenges through scientific research.

Our community is getting a rare opportunity to host several members of Washington state’s congressional delegation thanks to the Association of Washington Business.

And we hope those who have never visited before will return home with a new appreciation of the Tri-City region and what it has to offer.

The AWB chose to hold its Federal Affairs Summit at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland on Aug. 20 — and it’s a big deal.

Federal officials often think primarily of the Hanford site when they think of the Tri-Cities. After all, cleaning up radioactive waste at the nuclear reservation requires billions of dollars from the national budget.

But there is so much more to our region than toxic nuclear waste.

Mid-Columbia wine, potatoes, manufacturing — think Lampson International cranes — and the technology coming out of PNNL are among the positives that should be at the top of the national radar.

We bet most people flying in for the AWB Summit probably don’t realize that airport body scanners are based on technology developed at PNNL. In fact, around here, raising both arms over your head is known as the “PNNL Salute.”

AWB officials could not have picked a better location to discuss business and innovation than the nation’s premier laboratory. PNNL is world-renowned for its work in the fields of chemistry, environmental science and data analytics.

Just this week, Steven Ashby, director of PNNL, wrote in the Tri-City Herald about researchers at the lab “paving the way” for new manufacturing methods that mix and join metals without melting them. The new process could result in metals with “superior strength” and revolutionize the energy, auto and aerospace industries.

And earlier this month, a story by Tri-City Herald writer Annette Cary told of a promising new cancer treatment developed in the Tri-Cities and now being used on tumors in dogs and cats. The hope is that it eventually will help human cancer patients.

These are the kinds of stories we hope our influential guests will hear about during their stay — even if it is in casual conversation.

The AWB forum provides participants a chance to meet face-to-face with members of Congress and discuss federal policies on issues like trade, agriculture, nuclear energy, waterways and technology.

Having these conversations in our own backyard means Tri-City concerns can be in the forefront, and it would be great if our own congressman, Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, took the lead on educating his fellow lawmakers on Mid-Columbia issues.

The controversy over the Snake River dams comes to mind.

West-side environmental groups that want to tear down the dams are turning up the volume on their anti-dam rhetoric.

If there is a chance to emphasize the importance of the dams to the region’s economy, as well as the clean energy they provide, it would be helpful if Newhouse used this opportunity to get that message through.

In addition, Democratic U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell is a scheduled speaker at the summit, as are Democratic U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene, Derek Kilmer and Kim Schrier.

Mark Menezes, the Under Secretary of Energy for the U.S. Department of Energy, is also scheduled to address the crowd.

The Tri-Cities does not often get such a gathering of influential federal lawmakers to visit at the same time.

We are grateful to the AWB — whose leaders are based in Olympia — for bringing the summit to our community and recognizing that the Tri-Cities is the perfect location to discuss federal issues like trade, energy and innovation.