Udall to teleconference about LANL future
By JENNIFER TALHELM | Associated Press
June 19, 2007
WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., wants to talk with Los Alamos National Laboratory employees about critical funding cuts proposed for the lab, but Congress is still is session. So he’s reaching out by telephone.
Using new teleconferencing technology, Udall will hold a telephone town hall meeting Wednesday at 6 p.m. MDT. Tuesday night, he will put out robotic calls to residents of Los Alamos County, Española and other parts of northern New Mexico, telling them about the town hall meeting and giving them instructions on how to take part.
On Wednesday, he will call back and ask residents to participate. Udall will lead the discussion, and listeners will be able to ask questions.
Such high-tech town halls are becoming more frequent since Congress vowed to take fewer days off this year. Udall learned about it from an Oklahoma congressman who tried it last month.
Udall has an urgent need to talk to his constituents. He wants to find out what Los Alamos employees think about the future of the lab. House appropriators have recommended zeroing out nearly $500 million in nuclear weapons program funding. The full House is debating the bill this week. Senators will take it up later this month.
The budget cut poses a serious political problem for Udall, who joined the House Appropriations Committee this year and is expected to help protect funding for the lab, which is in his congressional district.
Udall says it’s time for the lab to diversify. It now does more than 80 percent of its work for national security programs.
“By utilizing the brilliant minds of the lab to develop alternate forms of energy, I believe LANL has a future in helping our nation reduce its dependence on foreign oil and reduce the likelihood of terrorism affecting us,” Udall said.