By Wayne Allen
Sixth District Congressman Dr. Brad Wenstrup spend most of Wednesday in meetings, in and around the Piketon Department of Energy (DOE) Site about the ongoing issue with funding for Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) activities.
Wenstrup joins with other local, state and federal officials who are working to lobby DOE for roughly an additional $110 million to avoid layoffs from D&D contractor Fluor-B&W Portsmouth.
In addition to meeting with officials locally Wenstrup along with other members of Congress sent a letter to DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz.
“As we have repeatedly urged, the Department of Energy must come forward with a plan that forestalls the proposed layoffs at the site and keeps the D&D cleanup project on track to be completed,” the letter reads. “As such, we are writing to request that you come to Piketon, Ohio, and tour the facility before the impending layoffs on October 1. This site is critically important to southern Ohio and merits the Department of Energy’s immediate attention. The site and scope of this project are significant, and the cleanup needs are not fully appreciated until viewed in person. The workers and the community deserve answers as the Department’s lack of clarity leaves the region facing serious economic uncertainty.”
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Times, Wenstrup said what he took away from the Wednesday meetings was, “if you look at all of the entities involved with this, there seems to be a common goal, which is our belief and understanding that this site needs cleaned up. It can be a very productive site and could be one of the energy capitals of America, really.”
Wenstrup said his motivation behind inviting the energy secretary to the site is to let them see first hand what’s going on at the site.
“If we can get him out here to see what’s going on, he might believe in this community the way that we do,” Wenstrup said. “That’s the problem people sit in Washington and try to tread water, that does not cut it. We’re missing a big opportunity if you are looking to the future of not just the area, but of the country.”
When asked what it’s going to take to get this funding issue resolved Wenstrup said, “that’s the multi-million dollar question. I think we really need to make the case of what we can be here and the importance of it.”
Wenstrup said congress has, by in large, turned the site over to the Department of Energy.
“Congress certainly has a role in this and the house appropriations (committee) put in $15 million more than the presidents budget. I put an amendment on the floor, that did not pass but was for another $15 million,” Wenstrup said. “We have bipartisan support from the Ohio delegation on getting this done. Both senators and all of the representatives.”
Wenstrup said in the big picture the Department of Energy needs to adjust their priorities for the site.
“In the short term what’s going to happen most likely, there is going to be a loss of jobs, that we don’t want to see,” Wenstrup said. “I still think we need to think big picture, what can take place over the next 20 years rather than just next month.”
Wenstrup said one of his meeting on Wednesday was with the Steel Workers Union.
“You talk to the steel workers union and they brought up the point, they are the ones that have to face the people and the people in Washington don’t have to do that. Which is one more reason I would like to get them (DOE Secretary) here,” Wenstrup said.
Wenstrup’s letter to the Energy Secretary was also signed by Bill Johnson and Steve Stivers.
“The Department of Energy must keep its commitment to a timely cleanup effort. The site must be cleaned up safely, quickly, and without costly and unnecessary layoffs that jeopardize the project’s success. Again, we urge that you personally visit the Piketon facility. We stand ready to join you at a time and date that fits your schedule,” the letter concludes.
Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT