I was proud to join Rep. Doc HastingsRichard (Doc) Norman HastingsCongress just resolved a 20-year debate over Neolithic remains Boehner hires new press secretary GOP plots new course on Endangered Species Act reform MORE and 22 of our House Colleagues in requesting additional budget room for the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Program earlier this week.  The Environmental Management (EM) program was created to address the environmental challenges remaining after 50 years of our nation’s nuclear weapons development programs and civilian nuclear energy research programs. The challenges are enormous and the costs are staggering but the moral, contractual, and legal obligations of the Department of Energy (DOE) are without question.  This waste has to be cleaned up.

In 2003, the DOE approached the various cleanup sites across the country and the Members of Congress representing those areas in an effort to accelerate cleanup.  The effort, we were assured, would result in additional money being poured into cleanup in an effort to quickly reduce risk and bring down long-term costs.  For a few years, this effort proved successful and cleanup did indeed accelerate.  Progress was made in my home state of Idaho where the cleanup contractor in charge of this effort is doing a tremendous job.  Yet the Bush Administration’s budget requests over the last three years for the EM Program have been in steep decline.  And rather than accelerating cleanup at these sites, the DOE is now saying (or has been told to say by OMB) that it will take much longer than any of us imagined and cost much more than previously assumed.

I give great credit to the DOE for the progress it has made in Idaho, Washington, Tennessee, South Carolina, and other states over the past few years.  Good things are happening at each of these sites and real risk to the environment and human health are being dealt with every day.  At the same time, I am dismayed by the apparent lack of commitment within OMB to seeing this effort through and sticking to the promises made, contracts signed, and laws enacted that govern the cleanup of these sites.  For that reason, 22 of us have asked for additional room in the budget to help appropriators later this year restore this year’s round of budget cuts.

Regardless of what happens today in the Budget Committee, I am hopeful, and even confident, that Congress will stand by these sites and provide an appropriate level of funding for the challenges facing the DOE’s Environmental Management Program