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Gov. Bobby Jindal's volcano remark has some fuming

  • Story Highlights
  • Jindal stands by statement that volcano appropriation is questionable
  • Mayor of Vancouver, Washington, says volcano near his town still spits, coughs
  • "We don't throw the money down the crater of the volcano," researcher says
  • $140 million appropriation for U.S. Geological Survey also used on equipment
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(CNN) -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's swipe at federal spending to monitor volcanoes has the mayor of one city in the shadow of Mount St. Helens fuming.

Gov. Bobby Jindal says spending for the U.S. Geological Survey is questionable.

Gov. Bobby Jindal says spending for the U.S. Geological Survey is questionable.

"Does the governor have a volcano in his backyard?" Royce Pollard, the mayor of Vancouver, Washington, said on Wednesday. "We have one that's very active, and it still rumbles and spits and coughs very frequently."

Jindal singled out a $140 million appropriation for the U.S. Geological Survey as an example of questionable government spending during the GOP response to President Obama's address to Congress Tuesday night.

The governor, a rising Republican star, questioned why "something called 'volcano monitoring' " was included in the nearly $800 billion economic stimulus bill Obama signed earlier this month. Video Watch "Is Jindal prime-time ready?" »

"Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington," Jindal said.

But Marianne Guffanti, a volcano researcher at the U.S. Geological Survey, said, "We don't throw the money down the crater of the volcano and watch it burn up."

The USGS, which received the money Jindal criticized, is monitoring several active volcanoes across the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii. One of those is Mount St. Helens, about 70 miles north of Vancouver, Washington, and neighboring Portland, Oregon.

The volcano killed 57 people when it erupted in 1980 and sputters back into action periodically, most recently in late 2004 and early 2005, when it sent plumes of steam and ash thousands of feet into the air.

USGS researchers are also keeping a close eye on Alaska's Mount Redoubt volcano, about 100 miles from Anchorage, which is predicted to go off again within a few months. Its last eruption, in 1989, disrupted air traffic and forced down a commercial jet that sucked ash into its engines.

"If we can give good information about what's happening, that system of diversions and cancellations all works much more efficiently," Guffanti said. "And fewer people are delayed and standard business is resumed quickly."

Louisiana is no stranger to natural disasters itself, having been devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But Timmy Teepell, Jindal's chief of staff, said the governor stands by his statement.

"That was just one example of wasteful spending in the largest government spending bill in history," Teepell said. "The governor made it clear that we need to grow jobs, not government." iReport.com: Share your thoughts on Obama, Jindal speeches

The $140 million line-item for the USGS includes not only monitoring, but also replacement of aging equipment "and other critical deferred maintenance and improvement projects."

The spending could provide new jobs "no different than the amount of money you would spend on building a street or building a bridge or something," said Danny Boston, an economist at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Pollard, a former Army officer who has served as Vancouver's mayor for 14 years, said USGS equipment used to keep tabs on volcanoes is frequently damaged or destroyed. He said he wasn't sure how many jobs the money could produce, but, "For us and the people who live closer to it than Vancouver, it's important." iReport.com: Jindal's tone 'insulting'

"We lost lives the last time, and we could lose them again," he said.

CNN's Brian Todd and Matt Smith contributed to this report.

All About Bobby JindalU.S. Geological SurveyMount St. Helens

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