Piketon D&D funding deadline days away

By Frank Lewis

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As the date of Dec. 11, 2015 looms on the horizon, Fluor-BWXT Director Dennis Carr remain optimistic that funding will come through for the decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) project at Piketon.

“Dennis feels optimistic,” Jeff Wagner, Senior Manager of Public Affairs for Fluor-BWXT, said. “In general he feels optimistic about it as far as operating funding is concerned. He is a little bit worried that if we do take up a budget cut maybe in the line item capital area, which would be work on our onsight waste disposal facility, that could be an area that is impacted.”

The current funding runs through Dec. 11 of 2015 and Ohio’s delegation in Washington is continuing the push for the Department of Energy’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget to include $460 million to fully fund ongoing D&D efforts at Piketon.

“We haven’t gotten anything official yet from DOE,” Wagner said. “So we’re still waiting. We allowed the WARN notices to expire and we’re just kind of in a hold pattern now.”

He said the game changer would be if no funding came through at all.

“Right now Dennis is feeling better than he has felt even a few months ago,” Wagner said. “But we do not have final word at this point.”

Congress passed a short-term funding bill in September that ensures that D&D operations at the plant will continue through Dec. 11. Last month, Secretary Moniz indicated that no layoffs would occur within Piketon’s D&D operations through Dec. 11. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown led the Ohio delegation in a letter to DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz urging him to maintain employment at the plant using the funding provided by Congress.

One of the major concerns is, with a Dec. 11 deadline, if anything were to happen in which no funding was forthcoming, it is just 15 days before the Christmas holiday and would have an extremely negative effect on families in the counties surrounding and adjacent to the Piketon facility.

Brown said, “While a commitment from the DOE and Congress has resulted in the shortfall being eliminated and the jobs being saved, this process has been unfair to workers, the community, and the families that depend on these jobs.”

In the past few weeks U.S. Congressman Brad Wenstrup, along with Congressman Bill Johnson, provided the Energy and Water appropriations subcommittee with legislative language that would maintain operations at Piketon.

“We are working intently in the House of Representatives to prioritize the projects at Piketon in upcoming legislation. This work is critical to our communities and families in Southern Ohio left caught in uncertainty by the Department of Energy’s recent decisions,” Wenstrup told the Daily Times Friday. “The Ohio congressional delegation is working continuously with Chairman Mike Simpson and the Energy and Water appropriations subcommittee on legislation to maintain operations at Piketon and offer solutions for continued funding. I have also personally spoken with with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to express my disappointments and strong concerns over the Department’s recent actions.

Wenstrup referred to the Piketon projects as being vital to the region and the nation.

“Congress has continually provided full funding in the face of DOE’s interference, and we are working to continue to keep the federal government’s commitment despite DOE’s decisions to delay and dismantle high priority projects in Piketon,” Wenstrup said.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

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