POGO Letter Concerning Matheson Amendment to DOD Authorization Bill Regarding Moab Uranium Tailings
Re: Matheson Amendment to DOD Authorization Bill Regarding Moab Uranium Tailings
Dear Member of Congress:
Although there are many aspects of the FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act that are worthy of comment, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) would like to highlight one particular amendment introduced by Representative Jim Matheson (D-UT), which we fear will be overlooked.
POGO is an independent nonprofit that investigates and exposes corruption, misconduct, and systemic problems to achieve a more accountable federal government. As long ago as 1999, POGO issued its report, NRC Sells Environment Down the River: Radiation Flows Unchecked into the Colorado River, about the government's mishandling of the Atlas uranium mill tailings pile site in Moab, Utah. Representative Matheson's amendment would help resolve this longstanding, dangerous issue by requiring the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to adhere to a more aggressive timetable for cleaning it up.
Eight years ago, POGO welcomed the inclusion of a provision in the FY01 Defense Authorization that shifted authority for the Moab cleanup from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to the DOE. The Department's originally projected the site would be cleaned up by 2011. However, the DOE now has extended this completion date by an unconscionable 17 years—to 2028—in its most recent funding request.
We realize that environmental cleanup projects have been given lower priority over the past few years, but the sheer scope of the Moab case makes it exceptional. The 16 million ton uranium mill tailings pile sits in the floodplain of the Colorado River, which supplies drinking water to tens of millions of individuals. Estimates are that the uranium tailings pile contaminates 6.7 gallons of water a minute and affects the drinking water of nearly 25 million people in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah.
POGO has worked on this issue for nearly ten years and is extremely concerned by the Department of Energy's lack of progress. We are grateful for the leadership Representative Matheson has shown by offering this amendment and we ask that you support his amendment to the FY 2008 Defense Authorization Bill.