Bush Budget Raises Funds for Nuclear Weapons Production, Reduces Funds for Stewardship
LANL Representatives Fail to Show at UC Oversight Hearing
President George W. Bush released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2003 this week. Bush's budget includes a $500 million increase of funding for nuclear weapons work and stockpile stewardship, bringing the total weapons budget to $5.8 billion, an increase of nine percent. However, the President also proposes a decrease of $321,000 to the New Mexico Agreement in Principle (or AIP), from more than $1 million to $725,000.
The AIP is an agreement between the State of New Mexico and the Department of Energy (or DOE) which establishes the New Mexico Environment Department (or NMED) DOE Oversight Bureau. The Oversight Bureau performs environmental monitoring and surveillance, oversight of environmental restoration projects and waste management at DOE sites in New Mexico.
Senator Pete Domenici responded to the proposal saying, "We're going to get a very good and fully funded budget from the administration, one that we can almost live with."
However, there are concerns that the budget does not adequately prepare for the consequences of expanded weapons programs. Joni Arends, of CCNS, explained, "Expanded weapons programs lead to a greater environmental and public health impact, including air and water emissions and waste generation at all three of the DOE sites in New Mexico. We call on our Congressional delegation to find adequate funding for the AIP."
Greg Lewis, director of the NMED Water and Waste Management Division, said, "We're disappointed. We've had a lot of lip service about how important this program is." Regardless, he is optimistic, saying that although circumstances for the AIP look grim, DOE is working to restore funding, particularly in the Albuquerque office.
Also, Lewis says that the Oversight Bureau is aware that it is a long process before the budget is finalized and that many changes can happen. However, the Oversight Bureau is pursuing other funding sources, including funding from the National Nuclear Security Administration (or NNSA). According to Lewis, the Oversight Bureau is trying to help NNSA and DOE recognize the value of the AIP program.
The Senate Select Committee on Oversight of DOE Laboratories Operated by the University of California held a hearing last week to discuss oversight of the national laboratories, which include Los Alamos National Laboratory (or LANL), Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories in California. California senators canceled their participation earlier in the week. LANL representatives also failed to attend the annual hearing. LANL explained that by the time they received notice of the hearing, it was too late for representatives to "work it into their schedules."
Jelger Kalmijn, president of UC's Professional and Technical Employees union, said, "I think it's an insult to the legislators here." Due to LANL's non-participation, state senators heard from a vocal public, who had rallied before the hearing protesting LANL's waste policies and exemption status from paying state gross receipts taxes.
State legislators said that they would be willing to reschedule the hearing for later in the year. In response to citizen concerns, Senator Manny Aragon introduced Senate Joint Memorial 84 to form a citizen's senate select advisory committee which is moving its way through the state legislature.
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