APRIL 1, 2004 (202) 224-7082

Senator Seeks $2 Million for Needed Environmental Assessment

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Pete Domenici today made a formal request for federal funding for an environmental assessment that could speed up the ongoing effort to establish a national homeland security training center out of the entire town of Playas.

Domenici is requesting that a $2 million appropriation be included in the FY2005 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill to conduct an environmental assessment at Playas. The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology is purchasing the small Hidalgo County community. The school is also engaged in negotiations with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal agencies to establish a National Emergency Response Training, Research and Development Center there.

“Negotiations on the future of the town are on track and should be resolved soon. In order to use the town to its full extent, an environmental assessment will be necessary. I want to be sure that resources are available to clear any last hurdles to establishing this training center at Playas,” said Domenici, who serves on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.

“I am optimistic about the opportunities Playas provides for enhancing homeland security training,” he said. “As a full-fledged and relatively modern town, Playas offers the necessary facilities to operate a National Emergency Response Training, Research and Development Center.”

New Mexico Tech is leading a collaborative effort to establish a center that would provide DHS and other federal agencies a facility that offers, among other things, standardized emergency operations training for first responders, and advanced training for emergency operations and medical personnel.

In addition to the Playas request, Domenici has made a series of funding requests related to improving security along the Southwest Border in southern New Mexico. He is also supporting a number of programs already included in the Bush administration budget that will affect operations on the border, including $10 million to purchase additional Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to deploy on the border.

Among the Domenici requests for southern New Mexico that are not included in the budget request are:

National Domestic Preparedness Consortium/New Mexico Tech: $140 million, $60 million over the administration request to support this consortium. The Domenici request would stipulate that consortium partners each receive $35 million to conduct First Responder training. New Mexico Tech, Louisiana State University, Texas A&M, and Nevada Test Site are members of the consortium that is based at Fort McClellan in Alabama.