IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — The waste cleanup project at Idaho National Laboratory could be curtailed and exposed to deadline delays due to federal budget cuts set to kick in next week, according to the U.S. Secretary of Energy.
In a letter to congressional leaders earlier this month, Energy Secretary Steven Chu outlined several scenarios for cleanup delays at Department of Energy facilities across the country if the $85 billion in federal budget cuts, known as the sequester, take effect March 1.
"Funding reductions would put numerous enforceable environmental compliance milestones at risk, calling into question the federal government's commitment to protect human health and the environment," Chu wrote in the letter, which was posted on the Senate Appropriations Committee website Wednesday.
Chu's letter does not specifically mention the eastern Idaho facility, but any DOE funding cuts could spill down to INL and its government contractors, including Battelle Energy Alliance and two companies contracted to oversee environmental cleanup projects at the desert site, according to a Post Register story published Friday (http://bit.ly/ZLbfLF ).
A big portion of the cleanup is coordinated by CH2M-WG Idaho LLC. Company spokesman Eric Simpson said it's too early to speculate on the ramifications that the March 1 deadline and any funding reductions would have on work at the site.
Last year, the DOE agreed to a new three-year contract extension with CH2M-WG through 2015. The contract is valued at $730 million.
The company has headed the so-called Idaho Cleanup Project since 2005, overseeing the treatment and disposal of radioactive waste, managing spent nuclear facilities and remediating waste buried at the lab decades ago.
A week out from the March 1 deadline, Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., have yet to begin any meaningful discussions to avert the automatic budget cuts set out in a law nearly two years ago. Should the cuts go into effect, a wide variety of federal agencies and programs would be slowed and slashed, including law enforcement, national parks, firefighters and teachers.
The cuts mandated in the sequester could also impact research grants, Chu wrote.
Information from: Post Register, http://www.postregister.com