Recovery Act of 2009
Recovery FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

We encourage you to check the Frequently Asked Questions below to see if your question has already been answered.

 

Work to be Accomplished

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    Q. What were the overall goals of spending Recovery Act funding at Hanford?
    A. Creating jobs, reducing the footprint of active cleanup on the Hanford Site, and reducing life-cycle costs of cleanup.


    Q. How many jobs were created?
    A. The peak number of full-time jobs was 3,861 during a three-month period from January through the end of March 2011. That figure is the number of full-time equivalents (FTEs), which converts hours worked during a quarter (3 months) to the estimated number of jobs if all were full-time and completely funded by the Recovery Act. The other way that the Department of Energy tracked job creation was by “lives touched” – the total number of people that ever had a job at least partially funded by the Recovery Act since funding was received in April 2009. The most recent statistic available is for the quarter ending in June 2011: 13,604 lives touched. 


    Q. What does footprint reduction mean?
    A. The Hanford Site covers 586 square miles. As cleanup projects are completed in geographic areas, the total area requiring cleanup will shrink. As of October 2011, the footprint of active cleanup had been reduced by 385 square miles (85 percent).


    Q. What does reducing life-cycle costs of cleanup mean?
    A. Life-cycle cost means the total cost of cleanup until it's done. There are a couple of ways life-cycle costs can be reduced using Recovery Act funding. First, as cleanup projects are completed and the total area requiring cleanup shrinks, overall costs for minimum safe operations and infrastructure services decrease. By minimum safe operations, we mean that nuclear facilities normally require maintenance and periodic surveys to ensure radioactive and hazardous materials are secure and safely contained. Costs for services and infrastructure, such as utilities, needed to support these types of operations add up and increase over time due to inflation. Cleaning out and demolishing facilities (instead of maintaining them over a long period of time) avoids these continuing costs, sometimes referred to as "mortgage" costs in the industry. Also, costs of materials and labor go up over time, an average of 2.5 percent per year. By getting more cleanup work done with Recovery Act funding at today's prices instead of a few years or several years later, DOE is avoiding increases in the cost of doing that cleanup work in the future. DOE estimates that it will be able to avoid at least $2 billion in life-cycle, or overall, Hanford cleanup costs by doing work earlier with $1.961 billion in funding from the Recovery Act.


    Q. When did work begin on Recovery Act-funded projects at Hanford?
    A. Work started in April 2009, the month funding was received. More information on current projects is available on this website, including an interactive map, a photo gallery, fact sheets, and weekly reports by contractors on their ARRA-funded activities.


    Q. How did DOE select projects or programs at Hanford that were funded by the Recovery Act?
    A. DOE identified projects that met the overall goals of spending recovery funding: creating jobs, reducing the footprint of active site cleanup, and reducing life-cycle costs. The projects also supported priorities in Hanford cleanup identified since the 1990s by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Washington State Department of Ecology, Tribal Nations, and Hanford stakeholders. Priorities identified include completing cleanup along the Columbia River, containing and treating contaminated groundwater, shrinking the active area of cleanup to the center of the Hanford Site, called the Central Plateau, and completing key activities in the Central Plateau.


    Q. Were there any other criteria for selecting projects for funding?
    A. Yes. DOE selected projects that were already covered under existing prime contracts, so that hiring and work could begin quickly. DOE also selected projects on which its contractors have a proven track record of performance. Another consideration is that projects had regulatory documentation in place or documentation could be put in place in time for work to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2011 (Sept. 30, 2011).


    Q. Who picked the projects that will receive funding, the contractors or the Department of Energy?
    A. The Department of Energy prioritized and selected projects for funding based on the criteria described above, including priorities identified by DOE, other federal agencies, states, Tribal Nations, and Hanford Stakeholders.


    Q. I heard the Department of Energy didn’t use Recovery Act funding on high-priority projects – cleanup along the Columbia River and cleaning up tank waste. Is that true?
    A. No. In fact, the Department of Energy directed Recovery Act funding to both of those priority projects. The Department of Energy identified approximately $500 million worth of work along the Columbia River that was funded by the Recovery Act, including demolishing facilities, remediating waste sites, and expanding and installing groundwater treatment systems. Approximately $326 million in funding was used to upgrade systems needed to transfer underground tank waste and stage the waste for treatment.


    Q. What specific kind of work was done using the funding?
    A. DOE used the funding for environmental cleanup work. The Hanford Site is a former plutonium production site, with a legacy of hundreds of contaminated buildings and waste sites, more than 2,000 tons of leftover nuclear reactor fuel (metal), and more than 60 square miles of groundwater contaminated by radioactive material and chemicals above drinking water standards. DOE contractors cleaned up waste sites (removed contaminated soil and retrieving solid waste), removed contaminated equipment from buildings, demolished buildings, installed and improved groundwater treatment systems, and expanded Hanford's disposal facility so that it could receive more waste from additional cleanup activities funded by the Recovery Act.


    Q. Why didn’t you use Recovery Act funding to empty more of Hanford's waste tanks?
    A.Using Recovery Act funding for tank farm infrastructure projects allowed DOE to use more base (non-ARRA) funding to empty Hanford's aging single-shell tanks. Recovery Act funding was used to update infrastructure and facilities critical to providing a sustained and reliable feed of tank waste to the Waste Treatment Plant (the plant is currently under construction and is over 60 percent complete).  Retrieval of waste from tanks in the C Tank Farm is currently being accelerated to complete retrieval by 2014 and closure of the tank farm by 2019.


    Q. Did DOE just do more of the same type of cleanup with Recovery Act funding, or were new types of cleanup work done?
    A. In order to create jobs as quickly as possible to aid in economic recovery, DOE funded projects that were similar to work that contractors were doing when the funding was received. DOE selected projects that didn't require major technological advancements or extensive testing prior to fieldwork. This provided greater assurance that the projects could begin quickly, people could be hired quickly, and that the work would be done before the end of fiscal year 2011 (Sept. 30, 2011).


    Q. Did the Recovery Act fund any new cleanup technologies at Hanford?
    A. Methods that are new to the Hanford Site are being used in projects funded by the Recovery Act. Three examples are in groundwater cleanup. In the 200 West Area, contractors are building a first-of-a-kind treatment facility for groundwater, unique because it will remove the widest array of radioactive and chemical contaminants of any known groundwater treatment facility in the United States. In the 100N Area, contractors are used a jet injection technique to expand a chemical barrier in the soil and aquifer next to the Columbia River. The barrier traps radioactive strontium-90 contamination in groundwater coming from the Hanford Site but lets the groundwater pass through to the river. In the 100D Area, contractors used a new treatment resin in a facility under construction next to the Columbia River. The new resin will remove hexavalent chromium (a toxic chemical) contamination from groundwater at a much faster rate than treatment systems already in place along the river. The new treatment capability will help DOE, U.S. EPA and the State of Washington achieve a commitment to contain all releases of chromium to the river by 2012.


    Q. If you did the same work sooner, are you really creating new jobs, or wouldn't you have just created those jobs later?
    A. Without Recovery Act funding, there would have been layoffs at the Hanford Site in 2009. Contractors would have had to lay off at least 285 workers that year because available funding was shifted from work in the center of the Hanford Site to higher priority projects near the Columbia River. With Recovery Act funding, DOE was able to continue many of those projects in the center of the site and keep experienced people on the job. Without Recovery Act funding, those projects would have been done later by a smaller workforce. The Recovery Act created jobs between April 2009 and September that impacted the economy in a positive manner, and that was a primary goal of Recovery Act funding.


    Q. Did DOE issue new contracts for the cleanup work funded by the Recovery Act, and were those contracts competitively bid?
    A. DOE did not issue new contracts for cleanup work at Hanford. CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company, Washington Closure Hanford, and Washington River Protection Solutions were already under contract and responsible for cleanup of all areas of the site during the term of their contracts (up to 10 years each). DOE had awarded contracts to those companies in 2008, 2005, and 2008, respectively. All three contractors went through a competitive bid process prior to DOE awarding the contracts for cleanup work. By designating Recovery Act funding for projects that were already under contract, the DOE was able to save at least 285 jobs the day funding was received in April 2009, and the contractors were able to start projects and hire additional employees quickly.

    The three companies listed above are issued new, competitively bid subcontracts for work that was funded by the Recovery Act. The contractors kept statistics on subcontracts issued and report them regularly to the Department of Energy.  For example, as of June 2010, CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company had awarded $471 million in subcontracts to 481 companies, with $261 million (55 percent) awarded to small businesses. Contracting opportunities are posted on the contractors’ websites (see the Business Opportunities section of our Frequently Asked Questions page).


    Q. Did DOE and its contractors have the necessary permits to do work funded by the Recovery Act?
    A. The necessary permits and regulatory documentation were in place in most cases. In a few cases where the documentation is not in place yet, DOE worked with the regulatory agencies and completed the permit/documentation process in time to complete Recovery Act funded work by the end of Sept. 30, 2011.


    Q. Where can I find information about ARRA-funded work that was completed at Hanford or at other DOE cleanup sites?
    A. Updated information on Hanford projects funded by the Recovery Act has been posted periodically on this website. The Department of Energy has posted information on national programs on its Recovery Act web page. The DOE Environmental Management Division has posted information on its Recovery Act web page. Recovery.gov has also posted information reported by recipients of the Recovery Act funding, including the three prime contractors at Hanford that received funding (CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company, Washington Closure Hanford, and Washington River Protection Solutions).

     

Employment/Job Creation/Layoffs/Assistance

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    Q. How many jobs were created with Recovery Act funding at the Hanford Site?
    A. The peak number of full-time jobs was 3,861 during a three-month period from January through the end of March 2011. That figure is the number of full-time equivalents (FTEs), which converts hours worked during a quarter (3 months) to the estimated number of jobs if all were full-time and completely funded by the Recovery Act. The other way that the Department of Energy tracked job creation was by “lives touched” – the total number of people that ever had a job at least partially funded by the Recovery Act since funding was received in April 2009. The most recent statistic available is for the quarter ending in June 2011: 13,604 lives touched.

    Q. Were they mostly union/labor jobs or mostly professional/technical jobs?
    A: Washington Closure Hanford hires were mostly union employees hired by the company or its subcontractors. They comprised D&D (Decontamination & Decommissioning) workers, Teamsters, radiation technicians, as well as the managerial staff to supervise the workforce. The company also hired a small number of support staff, such as safety, accounting, engineering, environmental, project controls, human resources, and procurement personnel.
    CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company hired additional operators, D&D workers, Teamsters, other specialized craft, radiation and industrial hygiene technicians, supervisors, engineers, as well as support staff, including safety, accounting, engineering, environmental, project controls, human resources, and procurement personnel.

    Q. How much, on average, did it cost to create a job at Hanford?
    A. If you mean how much on average did each environmental cleanup job created by the Recovery Act cost the government, that figure is estimated to be up to $150,000. This included salary and benefits, as well as costs for training new employees, provision of office space, computers, security and other required related expenses. For highly specialized jobs required for cleanup of sites and facilities contaminated by highly radioactive and hazardous materials, these types of non-salary and benefit costs can be higher than might be anticipated in the private sector.

    Q. That's higher when compared with, for example, the cost of a teaching job. Why did it cost that amount to create a Hanford job?
    A. When reviewing the cost of jobs proposed by contractors, DOE didn’t compare an environmental cleanup job at Hanford with a job in another industry or its perceived value to society based on an individual's viewpoint. The cost of employees was based on many factors, including specialized skills/experience required for the job, average salaries in the industry, the location, the cost of benefits, the cost of training, and other factors. Contractors demonstrated to DOE and auditing agencies that the costs for their employees, including compensation (salaries), including those hired with Recovery Act funding, were in the range of what is considered normal in the industry. If a comparison were to be made between costs of a Hanford job and costs of a teaching job, it would be very important to understand whether or not both figures include comparable non-salary and benefit costs.

    Q. If DOE contractors spent $273 million through the end of November 2009 and created 1,423 jobs, didn’t this mean it costs nearly $200,000 for each job created?
    A. No, because the job count did not include money spent on commonly available goods and services used to do the work (e.g., heavy machinery, protective equipment, tools, office supplies). The job creation figure of 1,423 jobs reported at that time included only hours worked by employees of the prime contractors, their teaming contractors and some jobs created by subcontracts for highly specialized goods and services (e.g., a container used to transport cleanup debris to the site's low-level waste disposal facility).

    Q. What was the average salary of a Hanford employee hired by the Recovery Act?
    A. The average salary was approximately $77,000. This did not include the cost of benefits provided to the employee.

    Q. How many of the people hired were from Washington State?
    A. CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company, which received the largest portion of Recovery Act funding at Hanford (up to approximately $1.4 billion) reported to the Department of Energy in 2010 that 80 percent of the people hired by the company and its subcontractors were from Washington State.

    Q. Contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company reported in 2009 that 285 jobs were saved. What does this mean?
    A. Had the Hanford Site not received Recovery Act funding, at least 285 site employees would have been laid off in spring 2009 due to projects ending or slowing down. With Recovery Act funding, CH2M Hill was able to continue those projects and retain those experienced workers through September 2011.

    Q. Where was information on employment posted?
    A. Three prime contractors at Hanford received Recovery Act funding and reported employment figures on Recovery.gov once a quarter (every three months). The DOE Office of Environmental Management also occasionally sent out News Flashes and newsletters with updated information on Hanford and other DOE sites involved in environmental cleanup or receiving Recovery Act funds. DOE also posted updated employment figures in the Recovery Act section of the Hanford website once a quarter. The contractors that received funding and reporting funds spent and employment are CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company, Washington Closure Hanford, and Washington River Protection Solutions.

    Q. What's included in the employment figures on Recovery.gov?
    A. The figures reported on Recovery.gov represent the hours worked by prime contractor employees on Recovery Act funded projects in a quarter (3 months), converted to a full-time equivalent number of jobs.

    Q. How much hiring was done by the prime contractors, and how much was done through subcontracting?
    A. Activities were within the scope of DOE prime contractors CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company, Washington Closure Hanford, and Washington River Protection Solutions. The companies accomplished much of the work through subcontracting.

    Q. How many employees were laid off when Recovery Act projects ended?
    A. Contractors CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company and Mission Support Alliance reported 1,424 layoffs related to the completion of Recovery Act work, including 802 union employees and 622 non-union employees. There were no Recovery Act-related layoffs for Washington Closure Hanford or Washington River Protection Solutions, contractors that received Recovery Act funding for environmental cleanup work. Mission Support Alliance didn’t receive any direct funding from the Department of Energy but did receive funding from the other contractors for support services.

    Q. How were employees notified about the layoffs?
    A. Contractors CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company and Mission Support Alliance provided advance notice to employees in January 2011 that a reduction in the workforce of those companies of up to 1,650 employees would be required by the end of September 2011. During the year, both contractors offered employees  the opportunity to volunteer for the layoff and receive the same benefits available to employees who  would be let go in September 2011. Due to the size of the workforce reduction and in compliance with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company employees were provided a 60 day advance notification regarding the layoff.

    Q. How were employees prepared for the layoffs?
    A. In addition to early notification and numerous communication activities during the year, contractors provided briefings on benefits available to impacted employees, and information was available on each of the contractors’ internal websites. CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company (CHPRC) sponsored a job fair for Hanford Site employees, inviting hundreds of companies across the country to come to a location near the Hanford Site to meet Hanford site employees (CHPRC and other contractors) who were going to be released from work.

    Q. What benefits were provided to employees who were laid off?
    A. Contractors provided benefits to employees in compliance with their contract, and company policies. All employees who are involuntarily separated may have been eligible for severance and all are eligible for outplacement assistance. Represented employees received severance pay in accordance with severance provisions in their collective bargaining agreement. Employees who were not covered by a collective bargaining agreement received severance pay in accordance with their employer's approved severance pay plans. Generally speaking, it is one week of severance pay for every year of service, usually with a limit of 20 years of service/20 weeks of pay.  Employees who meet the criteria of the Displaced Worker Medical Benefit Program (DWMBP) would have received medical benefits under the DWMBP.

    Outplacement assistance was provided to mitigate the impact to former employees. Employees were offered assistance from the Washington State employment service at WorkSource Columbia Basin (two locations):

    815 N. Kellogg Street, Suite D., Kennewick, WA, (509) 734-5900 or (509) 734-5283 (TDD)

    306 Division, Yakima, WA (509) 574-0105

    WorkSource Columbia Basin is a robust program that is state and federally funded and of no cost to either the contractor or DOE. WorkSource serves Benton and Franklin Counties by offering a wide range of employment and training programs. WorkSource provides layoff assistance, counseling for employees, employee recruitment, job listings, resume bank, and employee training. Employee training includes computer training, resume preparation, interviewing skills, skill building exercises, workplace training, specific occupational training, job coaching, and identification of transferable skills, career exploration, reading, writing and math skills improvement. These services are specifically designed to help job seekers, workers, as well as employers. Work Source also provides assistance in filing unemployment insurance claims, coping with stress of job loss, and coping financially with job loss.

 

Business Opportunities

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    Q. Did DOE need to award new major contracts to accomplish the additional work funded by the Recovery Act?
    A. No. The activities were within the scope of the current contracts of CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company, Washington Closure Hanford, and Washington River Protection Solutions.

    Q. How much of the work was be subcontracted out to other companies?
    A. DOE has stringent requirements in each contract that require the companies to subcontract out a certain percentage of the work (by dollar value), as well as subcontract out a certain percentage of the work to small businesses, and these requirements will apply to Recovery-Act-funded work as well.

    Q. Would you describe the companies that did the work?
    A. To learn more about the contractors who received Recovery Act funding, including job openings and subcontracting opportunities, visit the following company websites.

    Q. Did contractors issue subcontracts for the additional work?
    A. Contractors issued hundreds of additional subcontracts, as well as added additional work scope to existing subcontracts. Washington Closure Hanford had a 90-day forecast of all upcoming procurements not just ARRA-related listed on its website and added new projects as they were ready. Interested companies could visit the site and pre-qualify to ensure they receive copies of requests for proposals as they are issued. CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company featured a list of current solicitations and notices on its website.

 

Tracking the Money; Using it Wisely

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    Q. Were there controls in place for spending the funding?
    A. Yes. The Hanford Site received its first allocation of $1.57 billion in April, which was 80 percent of the anticipated funding of $1.96 billion. In September, the site received the remainder of its funding. As contractor work plans were submitted, reviewed, validated, and approved by DOE, increments of funding were made available to contractors to use for projects. By contractor, nearly $1.4 billion was designated for work by CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company, $254 million for work by Washington Closure Hanford, and nearly $300 million for work by Washington River Protection Solutions.


    Q. How was Recovery Act funding tracked at the Hanford Site?
    A. Contractors tracked the money separately from annual base funding, using approved accounting systems, and they reported funds spent, work progress, and jobs created to DOE on a weekly basis and directly to federalreporting.gov on a quarterly basis (and those figures are posted on Recovery.gov).


    Q. Was there a deadline for spending Recovery Act funding at Hanford?
    A. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act calls for the money to be obligated (placed on contract for a specific scope of work) by the end of fiscal year 2010 (Sept. 30, 2010) and spent by the end of fiscal year 2015 (Sept. 30, 2015). The DOE Office of Environmental Management, which directs activities at DOE sites like Hanford across the country, directed Hanford's DOE offices to spend the money and complete cleanup projects by the end of fiscal year 2011 (Sept. 30, 2011). At least one project deadline has been extended to be completed by the end of December 2011, cleanout of plutonium processing equipment at Hanford’s Plutonium Finishing Plant.


    Q. Was it a burden to spend this much money so quickly?
    A. Absolutely not. We're honored to have been in a position to assist with the nation's economic recovery efforts by hiring additional Hanford workers to take on important and impactful new cleanup work. Our contractors have demonstrated they can hire and train new workers quickly and are getting additional cleanup work done. We also accomplished a tremendous amount of work at today’s prices instead of spending more in future years as cleanup costs escalate due to inflation.


    Q. How has the use of funding by DOE and contractors been verified?
    A. Reviews of the funding process, DOE's basis for selection of projects, and the contractors’ performance of work are ongoing. One of the first reviews conducted was an external (to local DOE) assessment of the baselines for the projects selected: work scope, cost estimates, schedule, risk, and other project management documentation. In early October 2009, the DOE Office of Engineering and Construction Management (OECM) validated baselines for Recovery Act work that required an external, independent review. This rigorous review was performed by OECM and its contractor, LMI Consulting. The evaluation concluded there were eight major issues to be addressed. DOE's Richland Operations Office took proactive steps to address each of the issues within days of identification, and all had been resolved and were indicated as closed in the final report. Numerous audits of the use of funding, work completed, and other activities related to Recovery Act funding have been completed or are in progress (see the Audit section below).

 

Audits

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    Q. Who is overseeing how the Recovery Act funds are being spent by contractors?
    A. In addition to oversight by the Hanford DOE field offices (the Office of River Protection and Richland Operations Office), a number of government organizations, internal and external to DOE, monitor the expenditure of Recovery Act funds. The organizations include:

    Q. Have the contractors or the DOE been evaluated, and by whom, and what were the results of those evaluations?
    A. Yes, the Hanford Site prime contractors and DOE field offices (the Office of River Protection and Richland Operations Office) have all been evaluated since Recovery Act funding commenced in April 2009. Evaluations were conducted by:

    • the DOE Office of Inspector General in April, October 2009; February (Plutonium Finishing Plant and Transuranic Waste Program), August and September 2010; and January, February and October 2011,
    • the DOE Office of Environmental Management in May 2009 and June 2010 (Recovery Act Program Office) and June 2009 (Consolidated Business Center - Office of Cost Estimating & Analysis),
    • the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in June 2009, October 2009 (Davis-Bacon & Fed Regs), November 2009, and July 2011
    • the DOE Office of Engineering & Construction Management in August and September 2009,
    • the DOE Office of the Chief Financial Officer – Office of Risk Management in October 2009 and January 2011, <
    • the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) various reviews since October 2009, and
    • the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) various reviews ongoing since April 2009.

      Six of the 23 evaluations have not been completed. Of the 17 completed evaluations, 13 had no findings applicable to the DOE Richland Operations Office or Office of River Protection, one required actions that were completed by October 2009, one identified findings and observations that were corrected by October 2009, one identified actions that were completed by January 2010, and the other one identified findings that were corrected by July 2010.

     

    Miscellaneous

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      Q. The salaries reported for company executives on Recovery.gov in 2009 seemed excessive and too high for the work those people are doing at the Hanford Site. Why is that?
      A. Each of the three prime contractors receiving funding is required to report the salaries of its top 5 company officers to federalreporting.gov once a quarter, and those figures are posted by the government on Recovery.gov. (click on one of the contractors that received funding: CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company, Washington Closure Hanford, or Washington River Protection Solutions). More information may help in understanding what is actually being reported.

      First, only a few of the officers listed are executives managing day-to-day operations at the companies and only portion of their salaries comes from DOE funding at Hanford. Most are corporate officers that provide financial oversight of the companies' operations for their corporations, and their salaries are wholly funded by the corporations and not the DOE at Hanford. Secondly, only a portion of the salaries listed for those few officers that are also executives of the Hanford contractors are funded by the DOE at Hanford. A large portion of their salaries is made up of corporate incentives and compensation. Lastly, the portion of their salaries that is government-funded compensation for Hanford work includes compensation for managing all work by the company, including base (non-ARRA) funded work and both the Recovery Act work. Recovery Act funded projects account for only a portion of the contractors' total work scope and only a portion of the executives' management responsibility.

      There are caps in the Federal Acquisition Requirements that limit how much a contractor may be reimbursed by the government for executive salaries. The government-funded portion of the salaries of the Hanford contractor executives is well below those limits.

      Q. Some have criticized the government for increasing the country's debt by passing the Recovery Act. What's your perspective?
      A. We're glad to be part of a national effort to help the economy by creating jobs, and getting more cleanup work done sooner at a cost savings makes good sense to us. Both are having a positive impact on the surrounding communities and the region, as well as the environment.

     

     

     

     

     

Last Updated 12/16/2013 7:31 AM