PDT Staff Writer
USEC officials and federal, state and local legislators have been watching the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water to see if they would include the millions of dollars needed for the American Centrifuge Project in Piketon.
Now that committee has agreed to include $100 million in a spending bill, which has the potential to breathe new life into the project. For more than three years, USEC Inc., operators of the plant, have waited for a $2 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. Earlier in the year, DOE proposed a united effort with USEC to keep a portion of that project going through the Research, Development, and Demonstration project, which would keep centrifuges operating, but while the Senate included $150 million in the highway bill, the House did not, sending legislators scrambling for other sources.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the inclusion of the funding was reportedly at the request of House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, and Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Bainbridge Township. Sources say the move by the subcommittee is likely to be approved by the full House. It took place on the same day Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, urged Vice President Joe Biden in a meeting at the White House to salvage the facility.
“The ACP is critical to Southern Ohio’s economy and for our nation’s security,” Brown said Thursday. “The bipartisan Senate highway bill creates nearly 2 million jobs, and includes vital funds to help advance the creation of 4,000 jobs in Southern Ohio. The House can and should vote on this legislation. In the meantime, we must keep the project going.”
“USEC, and probably the industry, and our colleagues at the National Laboratories, and certainly our employees are all very pleased and thankful for the House Subcommittee action. We see it as a really strong show of support for the Centrifuge Research, Development, and Demonstration program,” said Paul Jacobson, vice president of communications for USEC Inc. “I think we at USEC see the subcommittee action as an important endorsement of both the energy and the national security aspects of the program.”
Jacobson said he feels there is a strong consensus both in Congress and the DOE, and outside experts of the value the project could created for the nation.
“Now the next steps for us, of course, is to continue working with DOE and Congress to complete the 2013 budget process,” Jacobson said. “We look forward to full committee markup in the House, which I think is scheduled for next week some time, along with Senate Appropriations action. I think it’s not too far out to say in an era when things seem to be driven by political divisiveness, this is a good example of bipartisan work by Congress to address a difficult and complex issue.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.