By Frank Lewis
When Pike County officials hold a town hall meeting to deal with the possible layoff issues at the Decommissioning and Decontamination project at Piketon Thursday, one component of the problem will not be resolved — that of barter transfers, which is the selling by the U.S. Department of Energy of stockpiled uranium on the open market, which accounts for 70 percent of the D&D project.
In addition to a federal funding issue, plant officials have been keeping an eye on a case now before a court which could have an immediate impact on the project and workforce. The case, titled ConverDyn v. Earnest J. Moniz and the U.S. Department of Energy, seeks an injunction against the DOE processing, converting and selling Uranium on the open market, which claims the government is competing against a private company.
Earlier reports were that a decision could come down as early as Thursday. Now Fluor B&W officials say that will not happen in that time frame.
“We got word this (Tuesday) afternoon that the federal judge presiding over the motion for injunction on further barter transfers has now scheduled a hearing on the motion for July 29th,” Jeff Wagner of Fluor B&W said. “Therefore, no decision will come until on or after this date.”
Because of the possibility of mass layoffs of Fluor B&W employees, a large percentage of whom reside in Scioto County, the Pike County Commissioners — in cooperation with county commissioners from Scioto, Jackson and Ross counties — will host a town hall meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Pike County Government Center, 230 Waverly Plaza, in Waverly.
According to the Pike County Commissioners, representatives from the Decommissioning and Decontamination (D&D) project, congressional members, local unions and local government officials have been asked to sit on a panel and provide information on the funding situation as well as field questions from the audience and the press.
On Thursday, July 17, D&D project Director Dennis Carr issued a memorandum to the workforce and met with managers and supervisors to let them know that Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act letters were being sent out warning of possible future layoffs due to a reduction in the anticipated budget for fiscal year 2015, though they stressed no layoffs are planned at this time.
However, the United Steelworkers (USW) is urging Congress to provide the $400 million necessary to fully fund the project. USW Local 689, which represents the plant’s workers, received a WARN notice on July 17, 2014. Fluor-B&W Portsmouth issued the notice because of an anticipated $110 million Department of Energy (DOE) budget shortfall for FY15.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.