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Lab's funding loss is reviewed

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A University of Georgia ecology researcher and a Georgia congressman plan to testify at a hearing today about the U.S. Department of Energy's decision to essentially close down a UGA-run ecology lab outside Aiken.

Two subcommittees of the House Committee on Science and Technology will hold the hearing to gather testimony on DOE officials' decision to discontinue funding the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.

The 50-year-old ecology lab serves as an independent watchdog for the Savannah River Site, one of the DOE's nuclear processing facilities.

Earlier this year, Energy Department officials said they would eliminate funding for the lab, despite many last-minute protests.

Former lab director Paul Bertsch and U.S. Rep. John Barrow, R-Savannah, are scheduled to testify at the 10 a.m. hearing in Washington, D.C.

The DOE, the lab's primary funding source, halved its $8 million contribution to the lab's budget in 2005 and again cut the lab's funding down to about $1 million in 2006, per an agreement with UGA that the lab would apply for additional funding on a project-by-project basis.

U.S. Reps. Nick Lampson, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, and Brad Miller, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, called for an investigation into the decision and asked UGA President Michael Adams and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman for documents relating to the lab's budget. Though committee leaders earlier asked other UGA officials to testify, they haven't been asked to attend today.

But another hearing might follow - today's hearing was "part 1" on the committee's calendar.

A University of Iowa environmental engineering professor and a Colorado State University radiological health sciences professor also plan to testify today.


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