Friday, January 27, 2006

News Release

News Release
U.S. Senators Pete Domenici & Jeff Bingaman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CHRIS GALLEGOS/Domenici (202) 224-7082
JANUARY 27, 2006 JUDE McCARTIN/Bingaman (202) 224-1804
DOMENICI, BINGAMAN OPPOSE SEPARATE LANL PENSION PLAN
Alerting DOE Secretary, Senators Say Separate Pension Plan Unnecessary
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman today asserted their opposition to a plan to create a separate pension program for Los Alamos National Laboratory employees and retirees, as proposed by the lab's new management team.
The New Mexico lawmakers outlined their opposition in a letter sent Friday to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. Their opposition is based, in part, on the belief that a separate LANL pension plan under the University of California Retirement System Plan (UCRP) would not have sufficient actuarial protection and would require the Department of Energy to provide pay to uphold the lab pension plan.
"We are opposed to your taking this action at this time -- there are too many unanswered questions at this point for the Department of Energy to proceed with such an irreversible action," the Senators wrote Bodman.
"We urge you to reject the request made by the University of California Board of Regents to segregate and spin off liabilities and assets. Before any formal action is taken, questions need to be answered, and the concerns of employees and retirees need to be addressed," they said.
The DOE National Nuclear Security Administration in December awarded the Los Alamos National Laboratory management contract to Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS), a team that includes the University of California and Bechtel.
The Senators said that based on a recent actuarial valuation report performed on July 1, 2005, the LANL asset base is underfunded by $54.3 million. This is down from 106.6 percent to 98.7 percent of the total liability, and represents a contrast to the larger and healthier funding profile for the UCRP which is 110 percent funded.
"As such, the Department may be required to contribute additional funding to the LANL plan, an action that has not been required for over a decade, and which may draw further on science investment we make at the lab. At a time of tight federal budgets, it makes little sense to take such action," the Senators said.
Domenici and Bingaman are chairman and ranking member, respectively of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has policy jurisdiction over DOE. In addition, Domenici is chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee that funds DOE and its national laboratory system.
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