Most of you know that I live in Portland, which is located at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Up the river from me is one of the most critical environmental threats in the US, one that could devastate millions of people. It appears that the Republican sequester may increase that risk significantly.
Here in the place where plutonium production for the nation’s bomb arsenal was elevated to industrial scale, in the rolling scrub country of south-central Washington, dangerous industrial pollutants are still getting into the soil only a few miles from the Columbia River.
Gov. Inslee said he was disturbed that the possibility of automatic federal budget cuts came to light just as it was confirmed that radioactive waste was leaking from tanks at Hanford.
For the nation’s largest environmental cleanup project, a legacy of World War II and the cold war, the announcement last month of six newly confirmed leaking tanks of radioactive waste was added evidence that even after decades of work and billions of dollars in taxpayer sacrifice, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s risks remain unresolved.
But as Washington’s new governor, Jay Inslee, swept onto the site on Wednesday for a hard-hat tour and a briefing, and federal officials warned of layoffs from budget cuts rippling through the federal Department of Energy, the reminder was equally clear, state and federal officials said, that government has always been the real defining force at this place…
…“I’m very disturbed that at the very month that we have six new leaking tanks of radioactive material, the sequestration hits, which could result in the furlough of several thousand people,” said Mr. Inslee, a Democrat and a former congressman.
The federal Department of Energy said this week that up to 4,800 workers out of Hanford’s 9,000-person work force, mostly employed by private contractors, could be hit with furloughs or layoffs starting April 1… [emphasis added]
Inserted from <NY Times>
Republicans are seeking to insulate the Defense Department from the random nature of the sequester cuts, and I have no problem with that. However they want to limit it to defense. If we are going to allow directed defense cuts, we most also allow directed domestic cuts so that we can cut things like corporate subsidies and leave in place those programs that we need most, like care for the poor and environmental disasters.