Lawmakers - Republicans and Democrats - have exchanged a series of letters with Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman over the decision. Two House Science subcommittees had planned a hearing for next week, but they postponed it Friday to gather more information.
In a recent letter expressing impatience with the department's response, subcommittee chairmen Brad Miller, D-N.C., and Nick Lampson, D-Texas, warned Energy officials against disposing of relevant records and told Mr. Bodman that his "personal attention to this matter is required."
The Energy Department has held firm that the lab hasn't lived up to its commitment to wean off the federal dole and get more outside funding.
"I want to see the Savannah River Ecology Lab working, but I want to see it working in the right business model," said Charlie Anderson, the Energy Department's principal deputy assistant secretary for environmental management. "Quite frankly, the management of (the lab) has just resisted doing that, refused to do that."
UGA has run the lab for almost six decades in partnership with the federal government. The lab monitors the sprawling Savannah River Site's long-term effects on plants, animals, water, soil and humans.
It accounts for just a sliver of what the Energy Department spends on the overall facility - about $4 million from a total of $1.2 billion last year.
Federal funding has steadily dwindled under the Bush administration, from a high of about $11 million in the 1990s. The plan to eliminate the funding altogether next year is no surprise.
The lab, however, has struggled to secure outside financing without shifting its mission away from monitoring the environment.
There is also dispute over how much the Energy Department promised for the current year.
School officials say on-site managers assured them the lab would get $4 million. But Energy Department leaders say they clearly laid out their plans to provide less than $2 million and that on-site officials did not have authority to make additional commitments.