If it seems like de ja vu, it’s because it has happened over and over again – funding for the cleanup of the Piketon, Ohio plant that is. On Wednesday, the Senate passed the short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) and that means the Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) will be funded for the time being, staving off the possibility of layoffs.
Now, Portsmouth Site Project Director Dennis Carr has sent a letter to employees praising them for their efforts which were part and parcel to the success of the acquisition of the funds to keep the project going.
“I would like to start by thanking each of you for helping to tighten our belts on expenditures over the last four months to balance against our available funding for this fiscal year (FY). As a result of our joint efforts I am pleased to announce that we will in fact balance against our allocated contract funding for the FY 16,” Carr said. “I recognize there have been impacts to our progress and in some cases to our site caused by the needed slowdown in expenditures.”
Carr said the company anticipates receiving only about 30 percent of their contract funding from the current barter arrangement due to the forecasted continued softening of the uranium spot market price. He said the remaining 70 percent must come through the federal appropriation process.
“Unfortunately, the precarious drop in the forecasts for the spot price occurred after the President’s Request level for FY 17 was issued back in February 2016,” Carr said. “This has placed us in a situation where supplemental funding over and above that amount set aside in the President’s Request are necessary to avoid impact to the project and our staffing. The DOE, the Ohio Delegation, the Appropriations Committees and the OMB are aware of this situation.”
Carr said, for the project to sustain forward progress without impact, there are two important steps that must occur. First, the language of the CR issued by Congress which he hoped to be signed by the president, had to contain language providing DOE the necessary authority to re-allocate its’ available funding to avoid impacts on their progress and their workforce.
“I am happy to report that this step was accomplished as the CR does contain the needed language,” Carr said. “Again, this should not be regarded as an easily accomplished task. Many individuals within the DOE here at the site, in Lexington and in headquarters interceded to help our cause. Additionally, the members of the Ohio Delegation again stepped forward in a non-partisan manner to ensure the necessary language was present in the bill.”
Carr said he does not want to diminish the role that the union leadership and local elected officials play in securing funding for the project.
In a letter to the editor of the Daily Times Herman Potter, President of United Steelworkers Local I – 689, which represents approximately 1,100 members working for multiple contractors at the DOE site in Piketon, said – “As most residents of Southern Ohio know, our site has had a number of challenges over the years. We have had numerous battles over funding to maintain a trained and qualified workforce and we continue to push the DOE and Congress to establish more secure funding to clean up and reindustrialize the Piketon site.
Additionally, we believe that a meaningful plan to establish a domestic source of enriched uranium needs to be realized for national security and energy security purposes. Commitments have been made by DOE but not realized.”
Carr elaborated on the collaboration that has created the atmosphere to draw the funding.
“We have a strong team that works well together to keep the attention and priority on our project needs. We must provide them the ammunition they need to continue to support us by safely delivering on our schedule and commitments.” Carr said.
Bottom line, the issuance of the CR with the necessary language to avoid impact to our project should be seen by all as a very positive development and a good indication of Congress’s intent to fund us at the needed levels after December 9. While the CR has provided DOE with the authority to fund our project to avoid impacts, the anticipated funding during this time will require close management. To that end, a number of the cost controls in place during the last five months will continue including overtime and procurement controls. We will be examining all discretionary costs, especially all requested non-labor related expenditures, to ensure they are truly necessary and required during the CR period.
I will update you as things change. Please continue to keep the safety of yourself and your co-workers as your first priority in all project work activities. Thank you for your continued support.
U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) praised the CR, which provides the U.S. Department of Energy flexibility to avoid disruption of the clean-up activities at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio.
“I’m pleased that we were able to secure funding to continue the cleanup work at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant,” Portman said. “Cleanup at the site is critical for jobs, economic development, and the future of southern Ohio. With strong bipartisan action on this important measure, it is now up to the Department of Energy to fully utilize its authority provided by Congress to avoid layoffs at this important project.”
On the plus side is the financing that moves the project closer to the reutilization plan. On the minus side, after Dec. 9, 2016 the powers-that-be will have to start all over again fighting for funding, sending letters, meeting with DOE officials and stressing the importance of the Piketon project.
“Continued funding of work at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant is critical to maintaining local jobs and keeping cleanup on pace so the site can draw new investment in the future,” Brown said. “Today’s continuing resolution ensures that workers at the plant can report to work without interruption and continue their critical efforts to support southern Ohio’s economy. I’ll keep working to find a long-term solution for the Piketon community so workers and their families don’t face uncertainty each year.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.