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Regional Coalition springs into action

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Lab: Meeting set with Bingaman, others in Santa Fe Friday

By John Severance

On the heels of President Obama’s budget request that would defer the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility for at least five years and the lab’s decision to implement a voluntary separation program that would eliminate between 400 and 800 jobs, the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities is not waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Los Alamos Council County Chair Sharon Stover has set up a meeting with Sen. Jeff Bingaman and representatives from the other New Mexico Congressional delegations and the governor’s office for Friday in Santa Fe.

Members of the Regional Coalition include Espanola mayor Alice Lucero, Rio Arriba County Commissioner Alfredo Montoya, Santa Fe County Commissioner Danny Mayfield, Santa Fe Mayor David Coss and Taos County Commissioner Andrew Chavez.

“The senator was very gracious to allow us this opportunity and we are very appreciative of the time he has available,” Stover said.

Stover said something has to be done after the news of the past week.

“This is serious,” Stover said. “The cut not only affects Los Alamos but it affects the entire region and the impact will be felt. It is very disappointing.

“We are trying to reach out to everybody. First we had the CMRR, and now this (referring to the workforce reduction at the lab). I know federal dollars are tight but modernization of the lab is critical and we are very concerned about the loss of so many jobs. We are looking at ways to help the lab. We have to maintain a healthy laboratory.”

Rep. Jim Halll, R-Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Sandoval Counties, will also be in Santa Fe Friday.
“It should be an interesting meeting,” Hall said. “I don’t know a lot about federal funding but I know it looks doubtful we are going to have a budget on time. We probably will be on a continuing resolution and I don’t know what means for the lab.

“The fiscal year does not start until Oct. 1 and at best that might mean more money or might create even more uncertainty at the lab. That’s the worst thing … the uncertainty.

“Right now, we are in a holding pattern and we are in a holding pattern with an ax over our head.”
At its meeting last week in Santa Fe, the Regional Coalition announced its plans for a trip to Washington in early March.

The top priority of those meetings would be the cleanup dollars for LANL for FY13 and beyond.

Joining the coalition in its Washington meetings will be New Mexico Environment Department Secretary David Martin, Elmer Torres of San Ildefonso, Los Alamos County Administrator Harry Burgess, Eddy County Commissioner Roxanne Lara, Hall, Brian Moore from the governor’s office and attorney Seth Kirshenberg of Kutak Rock LLP.

More on the funding of cleanup efforts will be reported in future editions of the Los Alamos Monitor.

They have meetings scheduled with various House and Senate committees and subcommittees along with members of the New Mexico Congressional delegation. They also have requested meetings with Energy Secretary Steven Chu as well as NNSA administrator Tom D’Agostino.