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Wyden Presses DOE Secretary on Agency’s Failure to Prioritize Hanford Cleanup

March 03, 2020

Washington, D.C. U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today pressed U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Dan Brouillette on the agency’s failure to prioritize cleaning up the Hanford site and protecting workers and surrounding communities from contamination.

In a hearing before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Donald Trump’s FY2021 budget, Wyden cited a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found significant problems with the way contaminated excess facilities at Hanford are evaluated, monitored and prioritized for remediation. Despite DOE receiving the report in November 2019, its proposed budget cuts funding for Richland operations— which manages the cleanup of contaminated waste sites—by almost 40 percent.

“We’ve got some of the worst problems at Hanford, and some of the oldest. You’re producing a budget that’s going to take it even longer to deal with them,” Wyden said during the hearing. “I would like as part of your response for you to tell us which of the problems you’re going to kick down the road even further now that you have a budget that proposes cutting such a substantial amount of money.”

“I wish I had a nickel for every time a secretary has said that ‘we’re dealing with the high-priority safety and public health questions and we’re going to have to defer some of the less important ones,’ and yet we still have no cleanup year after year after year,” Wyden said after Brouillette responded that low-priority projects at Hanford were deferred.

A video of the exchange between Wyden and Brouillette can be found here.

In February, Wyden sent a letter to Brouillette sounding the alarm on the GAO report and demanding that DOE do more to protect Hanford workers and surrounding communities.

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