February 02, 2005

Amendment Restores Funding For Idaho Nuclear Waste Cleanup

Crapo, Craig also working to further clarify that South Carolina agreement has no effect on Batt accord

Washington, DC - The U.S. Senate today approved an amendment that preserves funding for the existing nuclear cleanup agreement in Idaho (known as the Batt Agreement). The amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill sponsored by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and supported by Idaho Senator Larry Craig removes limitations on funding that would have prevented Idaho from accessing the funding intended for cleanup of radioactive waste.The amendment removed restrictions to the $350 million budgeted for cleanup of high level waste at DOE sites in Idaho, Washington, and South Carolina. The funding restrictions were included in the Defense Authorization bill because of disputes over whether states can proceed with cleanup of waste stored in tanks at those sites. The disputes are based on an Idaho District Courtâ??s opinion invalidating a DOE order for management of high-level waste.A resolution to restore funding was complicated by efforts to remove language in the bill that allows the State of South Carolina to proceed with a cleanup agreement it reached with DOE. Critics feared the South Carolina agreement could set a precedent that would affect other states, but Crapo and Craig contend Congress and the courts have already come down in support of the 1995 Batt Agreement spelling out Idahoâ??s cleanup. The Idaho Senators have blocked efforts to change management of waste in Idaho without the consent of the State of Idaho. In addition, prior to the vote to remove the South Carolina language, the Senators attempted to add additional language further clarifying that the South Carolina language has no affect on any agreement between any state, including Idaho, and DOE and has no precedential value. This effort was blocked procedurally by the critics of the South Carolina language. However, after the amendment to strike the South Carolina agreement was defeated, Senators Crapo and Craig introduced a second amendment to add this additional clarification language to the bill.â??Governor Batt, Governor Kempthorne, Governor Andrus, Senator Craig and I are unanimous in wanting Idahoâ??s agreement protected. It will be protected,â?? Crapo said. â??At the same time we have passed a critical amendment that says $350 million is going to be made available for continuing operations while we work on negotiations in other states. A big success for the entire country has been achieved already through these amendments. The end result will be proper cleanup and a long-term future for Idahoâ??s lab and its workers.â??Craig said, â??This is a victory. Itâ??s that simple. We faced a DOE request to withhold tank cleanup funding until Congress granted DOE sweeping new authority to alter its cleanup commitments in states like Idaho. Today the Senate said no to both. Idaho will have its cleanup funding and still retains the full rights to approve all cleanup plans. We won!â??Crapo, co-chair of the Senate Nuclear Cleanup Caucus, and Craig, a member of the Senate Energy Committee, noted other states did not oppose Idahoâ??s nuclear waste agreement when it was ratified by Congress and that South Carolina deserves the same consideration. They said finalizing cleanup agreements mean the DOE can restore the $350 million promised for cleanup, including $95 million for Idaho. Late today, DOE announced it intended to do so.# # #