Bishop: Obama budget cuts funding to lab that would replace Plum Island

02/14/2012 12:08 PM |
SAMANTHA BRIX FILE PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop was thwarted Friday in his attempt to halt funding for a new National Bio-and-Agro Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas to replace the laboratory that is currently housed on Plum Island.

SAMANTHA BRIX FILE PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop said Tuesday the president has proposed cutting funding for a new National Bio-and-Agro Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas to replace the laboratory that is currently housed on Plum Island.

Congressman Tim Bishop announced Tuesday that President Barack Obama’s budget provides no 2013 funding to the new national biological and agricultural defense facility in Manhattan, Kansas that would replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center.

Congressman Bishop said the decision not to fund the Kansas lab bolsters his case that Plum Island should continue operating as a BSL-3 facility, a move he says would preserve the jobs of over 100 Long Islanders. He also said the suspension of funding to the Kansas lab renders the sale of Plum Island, a move he has long opposed, unnecessary.

The federal government had been planning to sell Plum Island to offset the cost of the new lab. Southold officials have repeatedly said they plan to rezone the 840-acre island to prohibit uses other than that of a research center.

Plum Island, which currently conducts most of the nation’s agro-defense research, particularly on livestock diseases, is only a biosafety level 3 facility. The new lab would be a biosafety level 4 facility. The difference between the two levels is that a level 4 lab is cleared to study pathogens that can be fatal to humans.

“I am pleased that the President’s budget responded to the serious concerns I have expressed about [the Kansas lab], and that the Department of Homeland Security will now evaluate more realistic options for protecting our nation from animal-borne diseases using facilities that are already in operation,” Mr. Bishop said in a press release. “Even in the best fiscal situation, [the new lab] as currently proposed would be difficult to justify; in our current climate it is simply unaffordable.”

Mr. Bishop had introduced an amendment last year to bar funding for the lab after President Obama released a 2012 budget that included $150 million for the Kansas lab’s construction. That amendment failed largely along party lines.

gparpan@timesreview.com

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