November 29, 2001
The Honorable Mitch Daniels
Office of Management and Budget
Old Executive Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20503
Dear Director Daniels:
As you finalize the Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 budget for the Department of Energy, I urge you to provide at least $1.8 billion for a critical. environmental project in my region, the Department of Energy's Hanford River Protection Project.
As you know, 53 million gallons of waste -- sixty percent of the nation's defense nuclear waste -- are currently stored in 177 underground, leaking waste tanks, some as many as 50 years old. At least 1 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous waste have already leaked into the surrounding groundwater, which is moving towards the Columbia River. These underground tanks are all beyond or near the end of their design life, and the waste must be removed and turned into a safer state for long-term storage.
For nearly two decades, the federal government has promised the residents of Oregon and Washington a treatment plant that would convert the high-level waste into a more stable glass form. Twice during the Clinton Administration, the project failed to even begin. Like my constituents, I am hopeful that the new team on board at the Department of Energy will be able to live up to this promise.
It is my understanding that the President's FY2003 budget currently being prepared by the Office of Management and Budget will recommend dramatically reducing funding for this key environmental project. I believe that the safe and timely execution of the tank cleanup project would save taxpayer dollars and, most important, protect the groundwater, the Columbia River and all of the environmental resources of the Pacific Northwest. It is critical that the FY2003 environmental management budget include $1.8 billion to allow a seamless continuation of Hanford cleanup activities.
Thank you for your consideration of this important issue. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Gordon H. Smith
United States Senate