Carr on D&D funding

By Frank Lewis -

The saga continues in the puzzle that is the D&D project at Piketon. The employees and the operators of the project, Fluor-BWXT have continually had to hold their collective breaths as they wait to see if the funding for the project is in the latest continuing resolution (CR). Now, the first question that has to be answered is, will there be another CR or an actual omnibus bill? The second question will again be, will there be total funding for the Piketon project or a another partial appropriation?

“We are in the midst of a continuing resolution that ends on April 28,” Fluor-BWXT Site Project Director Dennis Carr said. “I met with the Ohio delegation and main staffers last week and was very encouraged. I think they’ve got our back and are watching out for us.”

Carr referenced Marcy Kaptur of Ohio’s ninth district, Congressman Bill Johnson of Ohio’s sixth district, Representative Brad Wenstrup of Ohio’s second district and the two U.S. Senators – Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown.

“They are watching out for us and obviously there’s a lot of uncertainty as to where we’re going,” Carr said. “Obviously they’re going to be watching out in the appropriations bill and if that’s in another CR, that is going to require that anomaly language be extended.”

Carr said Congress is prepared for an omnibus and already had the language for an omnibus but they can always fall back to the CR if necessary.

“What’s important is that we sustain the anomaly,” Carr said. “So if we have the CR, we need the anomaly language. The anomaly gave us $93.3 million of funding over and above the FY-16 enacted level which was key to us being where we are today.”

What are anomalies in the context of the federal budget? When Congress fails to meet its basic constitutional duty to pass the 12 separate appropriations bills to fund the government, a continuing resolution is passed to keep the lights on and prevent the government from grinding to a halt. These bills, in theory, fund all programs at the same dollar figure those programs received in the previous fiscal year. But, in practice, there are always special cases that the agencies put forward as anomalies, asking Congress for special dispensation to fund programs at higher or lower rates than the previous fiscal year.

The D&D project was originally, and for all intents and purposes, still is funded by two sources – the barter of uranium on the open market and appropriations. The problem arose a couple of years ago when the barter market bottomed out and the appropriations were cut.

“As far as the barter is concerned, number one, the price last year dropped $20 a kilogram. It didn’t actually stabilize as the result of some changes in the market, so we’re currently in a range of between $52 and $66 a kilogram,” Carr said. “We had estimated that it would drop as low as $46 a kilogram, so as a result, we actually are receiving more benefit from barter sales than we anticipated. Obviously it’s kind of saving money for a rainy day just in case we don’t get the full anomaly.”

Carr said there is an uncertainty that has to be factored in.

“It’s a secretarial (Secretary of Energy Rick Perry) determination,” Carr said. “It’s going to be issued this year and it’s my understanding it’s going to be issued on May 1. That will immediately go into effect and take care of the next two years.”

Carr said the barter currently provides 30-35 percent of the funding for the project.

“It’s still hugely significant to us,” Carr said.

“Isn’t that backwards,” Scioto County Commissioners Chairman Bryan Davis asked. “Shouldn’t that come out before the appropriations, because that way they can actually have an educated guess as to the actual need?”

Carr said the protocol is the not the best timing for the process of funding the project.

“Even in a normal year the president’s request would have taken place in the February time period,” Carr said. “So it would have been after even the president’s request.”

By Frank Lewis

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

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