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Congress authorizes $75M for West Valley cleanup through 2026

WASHINGTON – The annual battle to fund the West Valley Demonstration Project won't be as arduous in the coming years thanks to legislation passed by Congress at the behest of Rep. Tom Reed, a Corning Republican.

The bill, which the Senate passed this week, authorizes $75 million in federal funding per fiscal year through 2026 for West Valley, a nuclear waste treatment site in Cattaraugus County, 10 miles south of Springville.

"By authorizing and approving this, Congress is essentially saying – and the president agrees – that this is a worthwhile project," Reed said Wednesday.

Like his predecessors who represented New York's Southern Tier congressional district, Reed has been waging and largely winning annual battles over federal funding for West Valley. They had done so even though there has never been an authorization – essentially a congressionally approved promise to pay – for the program.

Under the two-step congressional funding process, Congress is supposed to authorize programs before it sets aside funding in what it calls appropriations. Reed said that without such authorizations, West Valley occasionally encountered congressional critics who said: "You know, this was not an authorized program; this was not something Congress had approved."

Under the bill that Congress just finalized, though, an authorization will be in place for years to come, making it easier to justify an annual appropriation to actually fund the efforts to secure and remove nuclear waste at West Valley, a former private nuclear waste processing facility.

"This is going to give ... credibility and certainty to the project," Reed said.

Reed worked with Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, to get the West Valley measure passed in the House in March. The Senate then finalized the measure on Monday.

Local officials praised the bill, as did Scott Anderson, president and general manager of CH2M HILL BWXT West Valley, the contractor that operates West Valley for the Department of Energy.

“This is certainly good news for the West Valley Demonstration Project,” Anderson said. “The authorization for funding at the $75 million level supports the capacity to continue making good progress at the site, eliminating potential environmental risks, and reducing West Valley’s footprint and life-cycle costs."

John Pfeffer, supervisor-elect in the town of Ashford, which includes the hamlet of West Valley, agreed.

"With dedicated funding and an understanding of possible disposal pathways, (Department of Energy), New York State, and the Town of Ashford can now begin to better plan for the future of the West Valley Demonstration Project, Pfeffer said.

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