.News Update 2/27/09

New Mexico House Memorial Urges Funding for LANL Cleanup

February 27, 2009

A proposed House Memorial before the New Mexico State Legislature urges the New Mexico Congressional delegation to "exert pressure on the United States Department of Energy (DOE) to ensure the cleanup of radioactive, hazardous and toxic waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and surrounding areas." House Memorial 45, sponsored by House Speaker Ben Lujan, seeks to gain DOE funding through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or the "Recovery Bill," in order to fulfill cleanup obligations at LANL. www.www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/09%20Regular/memorials/house/HM045.html

New Mexico Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall have been working toward this goal for some time. In 2008, they wrote to the Energy Department Secretary expressing concern over the current state of cleanup operations at LANL. They were also part of a bipartisan group of senators that requested $6 billion of recovery package funds to be set aside for cleanup of DOE sites across the country.

A 2008 report by the DOE Inspector General showed that LANL cleanup was several years behind schedule. A 2002 estimate showed that more than $700 million has been spent at LANL for cleanup, but most of the funding was spent on preliminary studies and investigations, not on actual cleanup efforts. DOE estimates an additional $2 billion is necessary for that cleanup.

The House Memorial encourages the creation of a workforce-training program for cleanup at LANL and other DOE sites. Senator Bingaman expects the cleanup initiative to create hundreds of jobs for northern New Mexico at a time when they are greatly needed. He said, "The [recovery] package must invest in initiatives that have an immediate impact on jobs. DOE cleanup projects are a particularly good fit because many of them are ready to go right now. I also see this as an opportunity to make significant progress on DOE's longstanding waste problem."

Funding for cleanup fits not only with the stated goals of the recovery package, but also with the goals of the state of New Mexico. In 2005 the New Mexico Environment Department and DOE signed a Consent Order to address much of the buried waste from 65 years of LANL operations.

One of the goals of the Memorial is to "enhance and develop clean, innovative and life-affirming science and technology in order to clean up radioactive, toxic, and hazardous materials at LANL." House Memorial 45 thus urges the New Mexico Congressional delegation to push for DOE to ensure funding for the cleanup of LANL waste, a long-term objective that has yet to be fully realized.

Holly Beaumont, Legislative Advocate for the New Mexico Conference of Churches, has been working the Memorial at the Roundhouse. She said, "Our support for this Memorial is grounded in our commitment to Restorative Justice. The communities that have suffered the most from the 'fallout' created by LANL should benefit the most from the cleanup."

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