RICHAND — Tri-Cities area leaders are looking for a repeat of the federal economic stimulus infusion of 2009 that created or saved an estimated 2,500 full-time jobs at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
Twelve years later federal leaders are again looking to stimulate the economy, this time because of the impact of COVID-19.
Spending money on environmental cleanup of Department of Energy sites is a proven way to do that, said national union officials and local government and economic development leaders at sites near DOE projects across the nation in a request to DOE.
They included leaders Hanford Communities, a coalition of Hanford-area local governments, and the Tri-City Development Council.
Spending $6 billion on environmental cleanup under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 reduced future financial liabilities by an estimated $13 billion because work was done sooner and put 20,000 people to work, while strengthening economies in places like the Tri-Cities.
At Hanford nearly $2 billion was spent.
A year ago union and community leaders near DOE sites requested $7.25 billion from Congress as a one-time boost for DOE environmental cleanup and now are repeating the request to new Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
“We believe we have a rare opportunity to address the legacy of the past, implement DOE’s strategic vision more rapidly and develop the pipeline of nuclear workers and technologies to help us lead in the future,” they said in a letter to Granholm.
DOE has at least $7.25 billion worth of environmental cleanup work in 11 states that could be completed in the next three to five years, significantly reducing the federal government’s long-term liability, supporters of the proposal say.
Environmental cleanup is the nation’s third largest liability, behind only the federal debt and entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, DOE has said.
Spending economic stimulus on DOE environmental cleanup would also create thousands of new jobs and revive small businesses, the letter to Granholm said.
The Hanford site has important projects that could be started immediately or accelerated now with a one-time investment, according to the proposal. The projects include speeding up work to remove a highly radioactive spill near the Columbia River. The spill is so radioactive that it would be lethal within two minutes of contact, according to the DOE.