Coalition presses D.C. for dollars

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The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities announced today that it is leading a 13-member delegation to Washington, D.C. to push for more cleanup funding for Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The group will meet with members of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation, as well as top officials at the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration to press for increased federal funding to continue environmental remediation across northern New Mexico.

“This type of work is incredibly important for the Regional Coalition and our effort has already had a direct impact through the millions of additional dollars LANL received for cleanup funding this year,” said Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, Chairman of the Regional Coalition. “Without this funding, we would have been even further away from the amount of cleanup dollars that we need for our communities and we could have seen a loss of up to 140 jobs.”

The Regional Coalition is advocating for at least $255 million in FY14 to maintain ongoing environmental management efforts at LANL.

The Regional Coalition will likely have a receptive audience when talking with the state’s Congressional delegation.

“LANL must get the funding it needs to continue the important environmental cleanup that is underway,” added U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. “The effects of sequestration and under funded budgets in prior years means we must work even harder for New Mexico cleanup at an urgent time of need. The fires burning across the state now remind us of the danger to waste storage sites during the Las Conchas Fire in 2011. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I’m going to fight to ensure the federal government keeps its commitments to New Mexico, regardless of the fiscal situation that we are dealing with.”

“LANL must have sufficient resources to continue its legacy waste cleanup effort, and ensure all planned restoration remains on schedule and critical milestones are met,” said U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “This is an important commitment the Department of Energy has made to the people of New Mexico, and I will continue to work with the Regional Coalition to ensure it remains a top funding priority.”

“Funding for environmental cleanup is critical to ensuring the safety of our communities and meeting the federal government’s commitment to New Mexico,” said Congressman Ben Ray Luján, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“It is essential that everyone works together to advocate for these funds so that this critical work remains on schedule. I will continue to join with my colleagues in the delegation to fight for this important funding.”

“I am glad to work alongside Los Alamos National Laboratory and the surrounding communities to ensure that LANL has sufficient funding to continue its cleanup efforts,” said Congressman Steve Pearce.

“The Los Conchas fire highlighted the importance of moving waste to a successful, safe facility like WIPP, and to date, that cleanup project has shown great success. I will continue to work closely with leaders and communities in New Mexico, with the Department of Energy, and my colleagues in Congress to ensure that this project remains a top priority for the safety and health of New Mexico and the nation.”

The delegation is comprised of five Regional Coalition Board members, including Regional Coalition Chair Mayor David Coss, Vice-Chair Española Mayor Alice Lucero and Secretary/Treasurer Santa Fe County Commissioner Danny Mayfield. Other Coalition board members traveling to Washington, D.C. include County Councilor Steve Girrens from Los Alamos County and City Councilor Andrew Gonzales from the Town of Taos.

The broader delegation also includes leadership from Northern New Mexico including State Representative Stephanie Garcia Richard from Los Alamos, Janel Anderson, the Director of Policy and Federal Relations for the Office of Gov. Martinez, DeAnza Sapien, Executive Director of the Regional Coalition, Floyd Archuleta, chair of the LANL Major Subcontractors Assoc., Brian Bosshardt, assistant county administrator for Los Alamos County, Geno Zamora, city attorney for the City of Santa Fe and Eric Vasquez of the Regional Development Corporation.
Nuclear watchdogs, meanwhile, are wary of the coalition’s intentions while in Washington.

“Worse, it is a mistake to think that supporting ‘cleanup’ jobs at LANL is going to do anything for the local economy. It’s a distraction. The supposed 140 jobs involved are a small fraction of the jobs being lost in the ongoing local economic decline. The misdirection of our leaders being orchestrated by LANS to serve their own corporate interests has assumed tragic proportions. This particular junket is a waste of time, money, and attention,” said Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group.

“We know that our congressional delegation will do about anything to appear supportive of the huge labs that dominate the state’s political scene. This is the problem, not a part of the solution.”