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Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-Clarence, pleaded with a House subcommittee Tuesday night to lift a restriction on funding for the West Valley Demonstration Project that could force layoff of 350 people -- half the project's work force.

Reynolds said he learned that a House Appropriations subcommittee wants to put a hold on release of $25 million in fiscal 2002 funding until a federal dispute with New York State is settled.

According to the plan, Reynolds said, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water would immediately release $70 million and hold back $25 million.

"If adopted," Reynolds said, "this would have a catastrophic effect" on the project.

Allocation of the $25 million would wait until the U.S. Department of Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority settled their differences on the future of the project, 30 miles south of Buffalo.

The project, which could cost up to $4.5 billion, involves solidifying 600,000 gallons of liquid high-level nuclear waste, closing an old, contaminated factory and other facilities.

Reynolds made the appeal as House Appropriations Committee members met with their Senate counterparts on funding for the project, the largest federal facility in New York State west of the Hudson River.

According to sources familiar with the dispute, NYSERDA wants the Energy Department to remain with the project perpetually and ultimately take possession -- and responsibility -- for any nuclear wastes remaining after all remedial work is completed. This is contrary to the 1980 legislation creating the plan to clean up the dangerous nuclear wastes left there by a succession of private companies.

Reynolds said a $70 million appropriation represents a one-third cut in funding from the 2001 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.


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