Policy Statements » Letters from the President:

Dr. Jerry Melillo , President
Ecological Society of

Testimony for Fiscal Year 2006 for the Department of Energy to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development

As President of the Ecological Society of America, I am pleased to provide written testimony for the Department of Energy (DOE). The Ecological Society of America has been the nation's premier professional society of ecological scientists for 90 years, with a current membership of 9,000 researchers, educators, and managers.

Under the President's budget, DOE's Office of Science would see its R&D funding fall 4.5 percent to $3.2 billion. In particular, we are concerned that the FY 2006 budget could effectively eliminate most biological and environmental research conducted at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL). Approximately 80 percent ($7.7 million) of SREL's FY 2005 science budget has come from the DOE's Office of Science. The FY 2006 request would eliminate this funding, and would direct SREL to compete for funding within the Environmental Remediation subprogram rather than be included as a separately funded research activity.

The DOE's elimination of funding for SREL would likely result in its closure. Although SREL researchers would be able to compete for funds from other programs, the physical facilities would likely not be able to stay open. Additionally, the amount of competitive funds available from other programs would fall short of previous funds to SREL.

SREL is an institution that is globally recognized for its scientific excellence and commitment to the highest standards of education. The ecological monitoring and basic research that occur at SREL are extremely cost-effective and valuable to DOE operations. Largely as a result of SREL studies, the Savannah River Site is the best ecologically characterized site in the DOE complex. By having such information available, DOE and its contractors save time and money in environmental risk assessments and regulatory actions. For example, a 1994 decision by DOE not to drain the Savannah River Site and remove contaminated sediments was based on SREL research that suggested the habitat could survive with the sediment intact. This information saved billions of dollars in cleanup costs. SREL is also recognized as a world leader for its expertise on such areas of research as the movement of pollutants in streams and the effects of radiation on reptiles.

The Ecological Society of America urges Congress to consider SREL's historical success in providing valuable scientific research to the DOE and the nation, and to ensure that it can continue to do so.