Jul 18, 2007

House OKs Lab Funding Cuts

ABQ Journal North
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

House OKs Lab Funding Cuts

By John Fleck
Journal Staff Writer

The U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval Tuesday to a bill
that could lead to substantial cuts at New Mexico's nuclear weapons design

The House approval, on a 312-112 vote, would cut nuclear weapons
spending by the Department of Energy by $396 million— 6 percent.

The Senate, meanwhile, is pushing a $213 million increase— 3 percent. To
come up with a final spending plan, leaders of the two bodies must come
together to reconcile the differences between the two spending plans.

Sorting out the differences in the nuclear weapons budget involve larger
questions about how much money is available for related energy and water
projects in fiscal 2008.

The House bill could mean the loss of 900 jobs at Sandia National
Laboratories and even more at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Democrat Tom Udall, who represents Los Alamos, voted in favor of the
bill. New Mexico Republicans Heather Wilson, whose district includes Sandia,
and Steve Pearce voted against it.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has proposed a budget increase
instead of a cut.

But that bill is not likely to reach the Senate floor until after the
August congressional recess, according to Chris Gallegos, spokesman for Sen.
Pete Domenici, R-N.M.

The fear, Wilson said in a recent interview, is that the Senate will not
get to it before the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year. One approach at that
point, which has been used in recent years, is to lump all uncompleted
spending legislation into one big omnibus bill. "It's a lot harder to fix
things" in an omnibus bill, Wilson said.

A key difficulty in reconciling House and Senate spending plans is the
overall size of the bill, Domenici said.

The money is part of a larger bill that also funds energy and water
projects. The total on the Senate side— nuclear weapons, energy and water
included— is $700 million more than on the House side.

That made it easier for senators crafting the bill to increase nuclear
weapons spending.

If the overall amount available for the House-Senate compromise bill is
not raised, any attempt to roll back budget cuts at the labs would have to
come at the expense of other projects.

"It's a whole lot easier to increase the allocation than to take it away
from a hundred water projects or the Corps of Engineers on the Mississippi,"
Wilson said.

Without bringing the overall size of the bills into agreement, solving
discrepancies over lab funding will be difficult, Domenici said during a
recent meeting with reporters.

"It will be nigh on impossible to resolve the bills with the current
difference in the amount of money to spend," he said.


Anonymous said...

LBNL grows under continued UC only management while LANL & LLNL shrink under Bechtel management.... by 2025 all three labs will probably have the same size staffs...

San Francisco Chronicle

Regents panel OKs Berkeley lab growth

Tanya Schevitz

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Santa Barbara -- A committee of the UC Board of Regents approved plans on Tuesday to develop and expand the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, despite critics' concerns about added congestion and employee safety.

The Committee on Grounds and Buildings approved a plan that guides development of the science and engineering research lab through 2025, as well as an environmental-impact report. Both are scheduled to go before the full board on Thursday, although Berkeley city officials who oppose the expansion have asked the regents to delay their vote.

Run by the University of California, the Lawrence Berkeley Lab sits on 200 acres above the Berkeley campus and has 4,515 employees.

The development plan calls for growth of about 50 employees per year over the next 18 years. Eventually, the lab would employ 5,375.

The plan also proposes to increase the size of the lab by 660,000 square feet, for a total of 2.4 million square feet. Up to 500 new parking spaces would also be added.

Berkeley officials opposed the committee's action Tuesday, saying they have not had enough time to review the impacts and proposed mitigations.

In a memo submitted to the regents, City Manager Phil Kamlarz expressed concerns about adding employees to a site near a major earthquake fault and a brush-heavy area that would be hard to reach in an emergency. He said the environmental-impact report does not adequately address the city's concerns and asked the board to delay its consideration of the plan.

Implementing the plan "will bring 1,000 more people to a site that is intrinsically unsuitable for this level of development," he wrote. "A single earthquake could make emergency access and/or egress extremely limited or nonexistent."

Lab spokesman Dan Krotz said the expansion is needed to bring employees who are scattered in leased sites around the city to the laboratory and to replace aging buildings.

"It is modest and reasonable growth," he said.

Anonymous said...

And the LBNL staff didn't even have to give up there UCRP and UC employee rights for their new DOE contract. Sweet!