DALLAS -- The appropriations bill that contains funding for the tentative U.S.-Texas settlement on the failed Superconducting Super Collider is headed to the White House for President Clinton's signature after approval by Congress last week.
The $20.7 billion energy and water appropriations bill was approved by the Senate on a voice vote last Thursday, according to David Gwaltney, a staff member on the Senate's subcommittee for energy and water development.
The bill contains a provision specifying that a $65 million grant would be given to Texas to convert part of the Super Collider project into a regional medical treatment and research center for proton cancer therapy.
The provision is considered a key element in the $720 million settlement between Texas and the U.S. Department of Energy to compensate the state for its investment in the $11 billion high-energy physics project killed by Congress last fall.
Last Wednesday, members of the House overwhelmingly approved the appropriations bill on a 393-to-34 vote, helping clear the way for the final settlement.
"The House vote ... virtually assures us that Texas will settle the Superconducting Super Collider project on the best terms available," Gov. Ann Richards said after the approval. "The settlement will provide this state with world-class programs in large-scale magnets, cancer therapy, and computer technology."
Under the preliminary agreement announced last month, the state would receive $145 million in cash, the $65 million grant for the medical center, and $510 million in land, buildings, and equipment for its investment in the collider project, which was under construction south of Dallas.
When the project was canceled last fall, the state had invested $539 million in it. That included more than $400 million in proceeds from the sale of $250 million of general obligation bonds and $250 million of lease revenue bonds.
Officials at the Texas National Research Laboratory Commission have said that they will make a decision on how to reduce the bond debt after the agreement is completed and they have the cash in hand. They expect the deal to close by the end of the year and hope to combine the remaining bond proceeds of about $100 million and the cash settlement of $145 million to significantly reduce the debt.
Meanwhile, Texas is studying other ways to use the collider project. In addition to medical research, an applied superconductivity and cryogenics technology center and a super computer center are being evaluated.
An independent peer review of the medical and scientific feasibility of using the collider's linear accelerator as part of the medical research and treatment center is expected to be completed in the next few months.