Congress Corrects President's Cleanup Budget for DOE

Report Says Yucca Mountain Selection Tainted by Influence of Nuclear Industry Lobbyists

* President George W. Bush has presented his budget for Fiscal Year 2003 to Congress, which includes slashing the baseline budget for the Environmental Management (or EM) division of the Department of Energy (or DOE) from $6.7 billion to $5.9 billion. Last year, Bush attempted to slash the EM budget as well, but Congress restored the funding during the appropriations process. This year, early in the 2003 appropriations process, both houses of Congress passed resolutions stating that the EM program should be funded at $6.7 billion and declared that DOE "ensure each site in the complex be provided sufficient funding to continue cleanup at not less than last yearıs level."

DOE agreed with Bush's 2003 EM budget and proposed an $800 million cleanup reform account that gave full discretion for the distribution of the fund to the Assistant Secretary of EM. Before any criteria was established for the sites within the DOE complex to apply for the 2003 cleanup reform account, DOE promised $433 million to the state of Washington to accelerate cleanup of the Hanford site. Such an allocation would leave the other sites underfunded and competing for the remaining $367 million for cleanup.

Under Bush's proposed 2003 budget, Los Alamos National Laboratory would suffer a 35% reduction in cleanup funds, from $74 million to $48 million. Sandia National Laboratory would lose 23% of its cleanup funding, from $21 million to $16 million. Don Hancock, of the Southwest Research and Information Center said, "DOE wants to cut cleanup funding at most sites, including Los Alamos and Sandia, and force states and citizens to accept large amounts of contamination of soil and groundwater to restore funding cuts. People and state officials should thank Congress for working to adequately fund cleanup and for opposing the DOE request, which would not save money or hold DOE accountable, but rather leave more contamination that threatens public health."

* A report released this week by Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C. based public advocacy group, claims that Energy Secretary Spencer Abrahamıs recommendation of Yucca Mountain may have been tainted by the influence of nuclear industry lobbyists. Yucca Mountain, located in Nevada, has been selected as the future site of the nation's first high level nuclear waste repository.

The report analyzes the nuclear industry's campaign contributions to Abraham and lobbying expenditures, and concludes that Abraham's decision was not a responsible, science-based determination, but "a bill of sale to the well-funded nuclear industry lobby." The report finds that the nuclear industry contributed nearly $83,000 to Abraham during his unsuccessful Senate re-election campaign in 2000.

President George W. Bush officially selected Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository in February. The report found that the nuclear industry contributed nearly $300,000 to his presidential campaign. The report also found that the pro-repository nuclear power industry spent $25 million lobbying Congress and federal agencies in 2000. Wenonah Hauter, of Public Citizen, said, "Abraham attributed his Yucca Mountain recommendation to compelling national interests, but he should have said compelling special interests. No wonder they call it nuclear power."

Read the complete report by Citzen Alert, entitled Yucca Mountain, Bought and Sold.

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