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DOE Ponders Impact Of Ban On Considering States’ Financial Incentives

July 7, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Energy Department is trying to assess the possible impact of a congressional action preventing the department from considering states’ financial incentives to land the planned ″super collider″ atom smasher.

The ban, which would not stop the states from making those offers, was contained in the supplemental appropriations bill approved last week for the current fiscal year. President Reagan is expected to sign the bill.

The measure, originally proposed by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., was modified to make clear that a state can spend funds to improve a prospective site and the Energy Department still can consider that site.

In addition, a state still can offer direct financial incentives.

Domenici was concerned that small states would be shut out of any realistic chance to land the super collider, one of the biggest scientific plums in years. The $4.4 billion installation with its 52-miles-around tunnel will have a $270 million annual budget, 3,000 scientific jobs and no pollution except slightly radioactive waste similar to what a hospital would generate.

Several states, including Illinois and Texas, are preparing elaborate proposals.

Charles Cook, an aide to Rep. Ralph Hall, D-Texas, said Monday the provisions in the supplemental appropriations bill have ″created an ambiguity. Is it fair for a state like Illinois, which has Fermilab, to be able to count Fermilab in its applications when other states can’t count dollars?″

Fermilab, at Batavia, Ill., is the most powerful atom-smasher operating in the United States. Illinois officials have been considering a proposal to the Energy Department to modify it for the 20-times-more-powerful super collider.

Cook said he did not see how officials doing the selection could keep from being influenced by particular parts of state proposals. Even if incentives are not put before them formally, ″members of the siting entity read the newspapers,″ Cook said.

Proposals from the states are due Aug. 3. The selection process is scheduled to end in July 1988 with the choice of the Energy Department’s ″preferred site″ and final designation of that site, barring the unforeseen, in January 1989.

Cook and Vickie Wallen, an aide to Rep. Terry Bruce, D-Ill., said they believed the ban on considering financial incentives would expire with the current fiscal year Sept. 30.

However, Gigi Borchard, coordinator of the department’s super collider program, said she did not know if the lawyers would agree with that view, but added, ″I’m not sure how it will come out.″

Ms. Wallen said she believed ″DOE is not too unhappy with this language because it is not very binding.″ But Ms. Borchard said, ″The department is still looking at what this language will mean.″

Ms. Borchard was more definite about another congressional action in prospect: the failure to grant $10 million for so-called ″long lead time″ items that must be ordered early no matter where the machine is built.

The department’s appropriations bill for the next fiscal year - the one beginning Oct. 1 - contains the $25 million the department planned to transfer from existing accounts, but not the $10 million additional.

″This is essential if we are to meet the schedule to be in operation in the mid-1990s,″ she said. ″We are hopeful we’ll have some opportunities in the Senate″ to obtain the additional money.

The bill in question has cleared the House but has not been taken up by the Senate. Any changes the Senate makes must be approved by a conference committee of both houses and the final version passed by both houses.

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