Taken to the Cleaners
A plan by the Bush administration to speed cleanups of highly radioactive military waste is provoking the ire of some powerful foes. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said the plan — which offers an extra $800 million in cleanup funds for the next fiscal year to states that can decide by Aug. 1 how to spend the money — could give states an incentive to lower their environmental standards. Cantwell and Washington state Attorney General Christine Gregoire aired their concerns yesterday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, whose chair, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), agreed that the money could be seen as encouraging laxer cleanup standards. The Washington state officials suggested that the plan might be a way for the feds to back out of a longstanding agreement to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. In 1989, the Energy Department promised to clean up at least 99 percent of the more than 53 million gallons of radioactive waste at Hanford, but has already altered the terms of the cleanup deal considerably.