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Proposed $47 million EPA lab at Fort Meade cut by panel


WASHINGTON -- A $47 million laboratory the Environmental Protection Agency plans to build at Fort Meade was cut this week by the same House subcommittee that voted to close the && Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland's two senators said yesterday.

The subcommittee cut $33 million that the Clinton administration had sought as the final installment on the cost of the lab, which has been expected to replace aging and rundown EPA labs in Annapolis and Beltsville.

The lab was chopped as the subcommittee cut the EPA's budget to $4.87 billion, down $2.5 billion from the current year's outlay.

Congress had put up the first $14.5 million for planning and construction of the lab. In March, House Republicans proposed to withdraw most of that money as part of a $17.5 billion reduction of spending for the current fiscal year. But an aide to Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat, said the cut had been dropped from the final version of that bill.

Unlike the House subcommittee's proposal on Goddard, which would cost Maryland 11,000 jobs, there are relatively few new jobs involved in the proposed lab, which is slated for a site at U.S. 32 and 175 at Fort Meade.

Most of the more than 200 people who would work in the building -- including some state and local government workers and private contractors -- would involve shifts of existing jobs from other facilities, said Charles A. Stek, the Sarbanes aide. A few jobs would be created.

Senator Sarbanes "is pressing very strongly on the Senate side to restore the money," said the aide. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, the senior Democrat on the Senate appropriations subcommittee that handles the EPA budget, said yesterday that she would also work to restore the money.

The full House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to act on its subcommittee's budget next week.

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