FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOVEMBER 16, 2012
Tester: Halt construction of ag disease research lab
Senator concerned by ‘unnecessary cost and risks’
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is calling on the Department of Homeland Security to halt construction of an agricultural disease research lab until security concerns are addressed and Congress approves any needed funding.
The Department is planning to relocate the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility to a site in Kansas near thousands of head of cattle. The area is frequently hit by dangerous tornadoes. An accidental release of Foot and Mouth Disease from the facility could cost producers as much as $50 billion.
Due to Tester’s long-standing concerns about moving the facility to Kansas, the federal government did not request new funding for construction earlier this year while the Homeland Security Department fully assesses the facility’s safety risks and any related costs.
Tester, who previously called into question the government’s plan to spend as much as $1 billion in taxpayer money to move the facility, is now making sure the Department doesn’t move forward without Congress’ stamp of approval.
“Given the lingering concerns and ever-increasing costs associated with the proposed facility, I strongly urge the department to allow Congress to fully consider the ramifications of these decisions,” Tester told Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “When the government is tightening its belt, we simply cannot throw taxpayer dollar after taxpayer dollar in support of a bad decision.”
Tester previously added language to 2009 legislation that required an improved safety analysis and response plan in case of an accidental release of a contagious livestock disease at the facility.
The analysis estimated the probably of a disease outbreak from the proposed Kansas facility at nearly 70 percent over the next 50 years.
Tester’s letter to Napolitano appears below.
November 15, 2012
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Napolitano:
I write to you regarding the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed relocation of the hazardous animal pathogen research facility from Plum Island, New York, to Manhattan, Kansas. In particular, I request that your agency not proceed further with construction of this facility until Congress has had an opportunity to complete its work on the Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations process.
You are well aware of my concerns regarding the unnecessary costs and risks that would result from the proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF). Because of its proposed location in the heart of beef country and an area prone to severe tornadoes, a release of Foot and Mouth Disease from the facility could decimate the domestic livestock industry, do irreparable harm to the economy, and jeopardize a critical component of our nation’s food security. It would have an estimated economic impact that could run as high as $50 billion.
I am certainly encouraged that DHS has updated its site-specific risk assessment to lessen the likelihood of an outbreak at the facility. But with subsequent costs approaching $1.1 billion, it is past time to say enough is enough. When the federal government is significantly tightening its belt and putting a number of valuable programs on the chopping block, and working families are still dealing with an economy that has not fully recovered, we cannot simply throw taxpayer dollar after taxpayer dollar in support of a bad decision that was never properly evaluated in the first place.
While supporting funding in previous years only if certain conditions were met, the Senate Appropriations Committee overwhelmingly passed a Fiscal Year 2013 Homeland security funding bill that did not provide one penny for NBAF construction. At the same time, the Administration is finally recognizing the significant Congressional concern over this proposal – requesting $150 million for NBAF construction in Fiscal Year 2012 and no funding in Fiscal Year 2013. Given the lingering concerns and ever-increasing costs associated with the proposed NBAF, I strongly urge the Department to allow Congress to fully consider the ramifications of these decisions and to determine whether the project should continue prior to the Department taking any further action on this proposed facility.
Instead, I urge you to consider my previous requests to assess alternative proposals that could provide the innovative research we seek in a manner that makes more sense for taxpayers and does not place our livestock industry or economy at risk – alternatives such as renovating the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to the operational and safety standards required by DHS to continue its research.
I thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.
Contact: Andrea Helling or Dan Malessa – (202) 228-0371