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STOPGAP BILL IS A REPRIEVE <br> FROM CUTS AT WEST VALLEY

The West Valley Demonstration Project will get a three-week reprieve from a proposed 20 percent funding cut when the Senate gives final passage to a stopgap funding bill.

Called a continuing appropriations resolution, the bill will continue funding of all federal operations at current levels.

Under a budget plan passed by the Republican-controlled House, the facility faces cuts of up to $22 million in a single year, bringing layoffs and cuts in purchasing in Western New York.

The cuts, effective Oct. 1, have not been passed by both houses.

In the meantime, meetings of state and federal officials on the future of the project were held as scheduled Sept. 18, a week after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Congressional budget cutters used a dispute that flared in January between nuclear agencies answerable to Gov. George E. Pataki and the Clinton administration as an excuse to slash spending.

Congressional sources say that financial pressures triggered by the war on terrorism could work either way, as the Sept. 30 end of the federal fiscal year closes in on the nuclear cleanup program, located south of Buffalo in Cattaraugus County.

"There are new priorities all over the place, and this could hurt (West Valley)," said a Republican official who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.

But an aide close to Pataki said a large amount of the $20 billion emergency spending bill for the war effort will go to the Department of Energy, "and that could loosen things up for the project."

Pataki wrote letters, urging that Congress restore funding to $105 million, to Harry Reid, D-Nev., chairman of the Senate's Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, and to Reid's House counterpart, Rep. Sonny Callahan, R-Ala. New York's senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, both Democrats, backed the governor's letters with messages of their own. Both will vote later this year whether to open Yucca Mountain, Nev., as a federal long-term repository for nuclear wastes, including wastes from West Valley.

e-mail: dturner@buffnews.com

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