Casper Star-Tribune
Casper, Wyoming

Wednesday, March 28, 2001

Congressman cites concerns over INEEL cleanup funds

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) - Congressman Mike Simpson is concerned whether there will be enough money to pay for nuclear site cleanups next year, including those efforts at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.

Idaho's 2nd District Republican representative said on Monday that $670 million, or about 5 percent, more is needed than last year in the environmental management portion of the Department of Energy's budget to keep the cleanup projects on track.

"It's imperative that we have enough money for the cleanups and that we meet time lines set up in governors' agreements," said Simpson, a member of a congressional nuclear caucus.

Getting the money may be a hard sell. President George W. Bush has said he wants to keep discretionary spending at 4 percent or in some case, reduce budgets.

"We could live with a 4 percent increase, but nothing less than that," Simpson said.

INEEL announced plans on Monday to cut its work force by 1,200, nearly 15 percent, by the end of next year to keep costs in line with federal support for environmental management and other operations there.

Budgetary concerns will be at the top of Simpson's list as Congress moves toward its Easter adjournment in another week.

Simpson added that he is working to amend legislation that expanded the Craters of the Moon Monument designation and eliminated hunting in the newly designated area. The latter ban could be lifted with correction to the bill.

He and Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo also are trying to protect the state's water rights by mandating that any federal claim on a water right comply with all state laws, including the need to pay filing fees.

Meanwhile, Simpson and Idaho Congressman Butch Otter are working on a bill that would split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The federal appeals court has grown to encompass too many states and is no longer an effective voice for the western states, Simpson said.