By ANDY LENDERMAN | The New Mexican
July 17, 2007
Congressman says LANL, Sandia must switch focus to energy
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that essentially cuts money for Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, and U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., voted for it, saying the labs need to focus more on energy research.
The House Energy and Water Appropriations Act would cut about $400 million from Los Alamos and Sandia compared to the 2007 fiscal year, Udall’s office has reported. But that’s not the final budget for Los Alamos since a Senate committee has moved to restore the proposed cuts.
Udall “strongly believes that it is necessary to direct increased funding toward energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, as this bill does,” his spokeswoman said in a statement. “Congressman Udall voted for this bill because all of our national laboratories should be conducting critical energy research and science programs to address national security challenges.”
U.S. Reps. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., and Steve Pearce, R-N.M., voted against the measure. It passed by a vote of 312-112.
Wilson, whose district includes Sandia, called the vote a “radical shift in U.S. nuclear policy.”
“The decisions embedded in this legislation will lead us either to return to nuclear testing, or to abandon nuclear deterrence because we will stop maintaining the stockpile,” Wilson said in a news release. “This bill devastates the capability to certify that our nuclear weapons are safe, secure and reliable without testing.”
Last month, Udall offered an amendment to the $31 billion bill that would have restored about $192 million to Los Alamos. It was defeated 121-312. Several House members have criticized the lab’s management.
Udall also said this year’s appropriations process should “serve as a strong signal” to the National Nuclear Security Administration and lab managers “that the work at the lab must be diversified to meet current and emerging national security threats.”
Udall was praised by Jay Coghlan, who heads Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “We congratulate Udall for voting the right way and hope that we all can get really serious about changing missions at Los Alamos,” Coghlan said.
U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said he disagrees with the House approach. “I am disappointed in the House-passed bill,” Domenici said in a statement. “It represents a serious challenge to our laboratories’ efforts to keep Americans safe without going back to underground nuclear testing, and reverses so many scientific gains of the past 20 years.”
The differences in the House and Senate versions of the spending bill must be hammered out before the measure is sent to the president. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Contact Andy Lenderman at 995-3827 or firstname.lastname@example.org.