War On Science Continues: Savannah River Ecology Laboratory on Chopping Block

There is news that officials in the Department of Energy (DOE) have decided to simply stop funding the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL), such that SREL will have to close down operations by the end of next month. At issue, apparently, is SREL’s independent status. The administration doesn’t seem to like it if they cannot have political flunkies with bogus credentials acting as flappers for scientists, telling them what part of their research results they can — and cannot — speak about and report. SREL’s mission, to investigate and monitor ecology and the environment, obviously brings them into contact with the administration’s determination to ignore as much information about problems caused by policy for as long as possible.

SREL isn’t closed yet. Reed Cartwright received a heads-up from Julie Glenn, complete with contact information for taking action. Notice the completely chump-change amount of funding that would be needed to keep SREL going through 2007: about $5 million dollars. This is about as much money as is being spent on the Iraq war every 26 minutes.

Subject: Other: End Approaching for SREL Environmental Research, Outreach and Education
Date: Wed, 2 May 2007 01:04:40 -0400 (EDT)

The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory’s funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will be exhausted at the end of May 2007 and the lab will be forced to close. The DOE or its equivalent has supported SREL for ecological research and environmental education for 56 years.

During the past year, SREL has worked with Savannah River Site (SRS) representatives to implement a new 5-year cooperative agreement with task-based funding, similar to what has been used for the past 20+ years. According to written and verbal communications from DOE, the funds have been budgeted for SREL tasks that have been underway since September 2006 and the funds are actually at the SRS to complete these tasks, however, the funds have not been released to SREL. The decision to hold back funding from SREL is solely due to officials at DOE Headquarters in Washington DC who seem determined to cut off all DOE funding for SREL regardless of the nature of the tasks proposed and agreed upon with SRS managers.

SREL programs are more important than ever. Independent environmental evaluation is critical for SRS programs that will process new nuclear materials brought to the SRS and current SRS processes that will leave residual high-level waste in place forever. SREL researchers are funded by many other agencies, but the core mission of SREL remains independent environmental evaluation of SRS activities and long-term stewardship of the SRS. DOE Officials in Washington DC are forcing the local SRS managers to discontinue funding for an environmental program that has benefited the SRS, people of the Aiken-Augusta area, and the entire country for more than half a century.

If DOE funding is not restored immediately, SREL will be forced to close. All SREL animals will need to be transferred or euthanized by the end of May. All tasks that SRS managers have identified as important to long-term environmental stewardship of the site will not be completed. About 100 people will lose their jobs, hundreds affiliated with or dependent upon SREL research will be affected significantly, and tens of thousands of teachers, students, and members of the public who are touched by SREL education and outreach programs will lose out. SREL employees and programs funded by non-DOE grants will also be forced to move due to lack of funding to meet DOE mandated safety and security requirements. Presentations to regional schools, libraries, civic groups, and other organizations will end in May, as will all funding for SREL student programs on the SRS. The independent, oversight studies SREL conducts and publishes on radiation effects, chemical releases, and environmental health will also be terminated at the end of May.

All citizens, including researchers, parents, teachers, and children, who want to urge DOE to release the funding for SREL to continue tasks agreed upon with SRS managers should contact individuals who could make this happen. The more people who express their concern, the more likely it is that action will be taken. You may contact the individuals listed below, write letters to newspapers, or inform anyone else you think should know. One suggestion is to write a short letter that you can email, surface mail, and fax. Then make a telephone call.

Jeffrey M. Allison
Manager, Savannah River Operations Office
Savannah River Site
Aiken, SC 29801
Phone: (803) 952-6337
Fax: (803) 952-8144
e-mail: jeffrey.allison@srs.gov

Samuel W. Bodman
Secretary of Energy
Forrestal Building, U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20585
Phone: (202) 586-6210 or (1-800-342-5363)
Fax: (202) 586-4403
e-mail: The.Secretary@hq.doe.gov

Representative Gresham Barrett
Aiken Office
233 Pendleton Street, NW
Aiken, SC 29801
Phone: 803-649-5571
Fax: 803-648-9038
For email go to http://www.barrett.house.gov/ and click Contact Gresham

Senator Lindsey Graham
Midlands Regional Office
508 Hampton Street, Suite 202
Columbia, South Carolina 29201
phone: (803) 933-0112
For email go to http://lgraham.senate.gov/index.cfm?mode=contact and
click on e-mail

Representative John Barrow
699 Broad Street, Suite 1200
Augusta, GA 30901
Phone: 706 722-4494 Toll free: 800 890-6236
Fax: 706 722-4496
For email go to http://barrow.house.gov/ and click Contact John

In general, to find a congressman/woman: http://www.house.gov/

To find a senator: http://www.senate.gov/index.htm

South Carolina Senators:

Georgia Senators:

For those who live in/near Aiken SC:
http://www.barrett.house.gov/ or http://joewilson.house.gov/

For those who live in/near Augusta GA: http://barrow.house.gov/

For those who live in/near Columbia SC: http://clyburn.house.gov/index2.cfm

For those who live in/near Athens GA:

University of Georgia administrators who should know about your
support of SREL:
Michael F. Adams
President, University of Georgia
Telephone: 706/ 542-1214
e-mail: presuga@uga.edu

Arnett C. Mace, Jr.
UGA Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
Telephone: 706/ 542-5806
e-mail: amace@uga.edu

Please also cc your letters to: friendsofsrel@srel.edu

Many have asked if SREL has a prepared letter for people to send to
the Secretary of Energy and congressional representatives regarding
the SREL budget situation. We do not have a form letter, mostly
because we feel individual letters carry more weight. However, we
have received copies of numerous letters that have been sent to us
from individuals having a variety of connections with SREL. If you
would like to see these letters, please e-mail:


Julie Weston Glenn
Post-Doctoral Researcher
Peromyscus Genetic Stock Center
Department of Biological Sciences
University of South Carolina

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

2 thoughts on “War On Science Continues: Savannah River Ecology Laboratory on Chopping Block

  • 2007/05/19 at 8:41 am

    SREL update:

    The “Friends of SREL” thank everyone who has sent e-mails, written letters, and made phone calls in support of the Lab. Traffic on the http://www.savesrel.org website is high, and the site is updated daily with new information—please visit often for the latest. This is a critical time in the effort to save SREL. Although a Congressional investigation has been launched into DOE’s actions and press coverage is increasing, the UGA upper administration is still intent on closing the Lab down–an interesting tactic given that they are also poised to launch a new “Eugene P. Odum School of Ecology” on the Athens campus. I fail to see how they can expect the new ecology school to have much prestige if it is built on the ruins of one of Odum’s proudest professional accomplishments—SREL. PLEASE continue all your efforts on SREL’s behalf—you ARE making a difference! Contact with your Congressional delegations will be especially helpful, particularly if they are members of the House Committee on Science and Technology.

  • 2007/05/31 at 11:31 am

    I would also like to thank everyone involved, especially the friends of SREL and that fantastic website. I was just on the phone this morning with the secretary of the subcommittee and they want me to send them a detailed synopsis/talking points paper on this whole fiasco to include SREL, DOE-SR, DOE EM, DOE Congressional Affairs Office and UGA. I do believe that extensive pressure has come to bear on both DOE and UGA for both their insensitive complicity in defunding SREL. I have knowledge that the letters that Sec Rispoli sent to the subcommittee chairmen stating that it was 5 million dollars with FY07 to be 1 million is misleading and that is not the truth. The original amounts were different until DOE EM put a halt to the signing of the original Cooperative Agreement between SRS, SREL and UGA.

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