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U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) joined the Senate Appropriations Committee this week in approving a bill that includes significant support for important New Mexico installations and programs, including Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and New Mexico water projects.
The bill includes record-level base funding for waste cleanup at Los Alamos (LANL), and significant funding levels for WIPP operations and maintenance. Udall also included an amendment to the bill’s report language to improve voluntary water transfers in the Middle Rio Grande Basin Endangered Species Collaborative Program.
Key provisions for New Mexico in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill include:
• LANL cleanup: $250 million ($35 million above the president’s budget request).
• WIPP cleanup: $222 million ($19 million above the president’s request).
• DOE algae biofuels: $30 million ($14.5 million above the president’s budget request).
• WaterSMART programs: $51 million, including $20 million for grants as requested by Udall ($16 million above the president’s request).
“This bill is very good news for New Mexico,” Udall said. “Funding for LANL cleanup is at a record level for base funding, and WIPP and several other programs were funded at the levels above the President’s request that I asked for. This bill will keep important cleanup and security programs on track at the labs, ensure our communities have key resources they need to protect our state’s water supplies, and keep major public works projects on track.”
House lawmakers have, meanwhile, provided in their bill $195 million, a cut of approximately $21 million.
In their report, however, House appropriators said, “The Committee is encouraged by the progress EM has made at
Los Alamos despite the limited funding available. As it finalizes work on a framework agreement in fiscal year 2014, the Department should work with the state to establish new milestones that can reasonably be achieved in the current fiscal environment.”
In a press release, Udall said he successfully staved off an effort to cut the B61 Life Extension Program, which would have affected Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories. The Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday recommended flat funding for the B61, despite objections from Udall, who argued that flat funding was $168 million below his and the President’s request. The lower funding level could adversely impact the labs and the security of the nuclear weapons stockpile.
Udall this week worked with Subcommittee Chairwoman Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to find a solution, which allows for the $168 million to be restored with additional oversight.