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May 11, 2022

EM request would pump $40M into poor communities alongside cleanup sites

By ExchangeMonitor

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management plans to invest $40 million of grant money into poor communities and tribal governments near federal nuclear cleanup sites.

William (Ike) White, the senior adviser and top federal boss at the Environmental Management (EM) office cited the Community Capacity Building initiative in his written testimony filed Wednesday with a House Appropriation subcommittee for a hearing that was postponed nearly as quickly as it began.

The grant program “is being established to support disadvantaged communities by providing assistance and capacity building based on needs identified through stakeholder engagement and Tribal consultation,” according to DOE’s recently-published justification document for its fiscal 2023 budget request for EM.

“The goal is to provide resources to areas of high or persistent poverty that are not benefitting from the significant economic activity generated by EM in and around these communities,” according to the budget request.

“In certain cases, these communities were moved so that the U.S. Government could execute its mission during the Cold War,” according to the document. The program is meant to assist with land transfers as well as infrastructure, reindustrialization and education efforts to help tribal leaders take a more direct role in EM policy.

The DOE cleanup office has already announced the selection of areas around the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico as participants in the Joe Biden administration’s “Justice40 Initiative” on climate change.

Communities targeted in the effort have a high percentage of residents living below poverty level, according to the budget request.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) who chairs the House Appropriations energy and water development subcommittee, moved to postpone oral testimony by EM’s White and the top brass for the National Nuclear Security Administration within minutes after the hearing started. Kaptur cited 20-plus votes taking place in the House shortly thereafter that would make hearing continuity nearly undoable.

Before adjourning, Kaptur lamented the administration is proposing to trim EM’s fiscal 2023 budget to $7.6 billion, down from the almost $7.9 billion included in the final omnibus for the 2022 fiscal year. Kaptur said EM needs adequate funds to clean up “some of the most radioactive sites around the world.”

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