By Frank Lewis
The decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) project at Piketon has been funded for the near future.
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced Wednesday that due to his repeated urging to fully fund operations at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, the Senate Appropriations Committee announced that the short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through Dec. 11 will allow the Department of Energy to continue cleanup projects, including D&D operations at Piketon. Just last month after WARN notices were issued at the plant due to a budget shortfall, Brown wrote to Senate appropriators urging their attention to the matter.
“It is good news for the Piketon community and workers at the plant that the Senate Appropriations Committee is doing right by workers at Piketon,” Brown said. “Continuing D&D operations at Piketon is vital to southeast Ohio’s economy and to local jobs. This flexibility will ensure that the plant can continue making progress on its cleanup efforts. I will continue to work with appropriators to ensure that Piketon is fully funded come December.”
Fluor BWXT said the DOE sent out 1,400 WARN Act notices to employees and since WARN notices were issued at the Piketon plant, Brown said he has continued his push to find funding for the project. Last month, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – which oversees D&D projects – announced that a budget shortfall in fiscal year 2016 appropriations for the project at Piketon will result in layoffs at the facility. Brown immediately sent a letter to leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting that funds be appropriated to continue the current pace of D&D efforts at Portsmouth for the entire 2016 fiscal year – either through the direct appropriation of $275 million or through another year-long budget anomaly.
“All Fluor BWXT can say right now is we know DOE is reviewing the language and trying to understand the implications of the language and then we’re waiting to hear from the department for some guidance at this point,” Jeff Wagner of Fluor BWXT told the Daily Times. “We’re basically in a hold pattern waiting for DOE to give us guidance.”
Wagner said the company is awaiting guidance from DOE so it (Fluor) will know what to do next.
“Do we continue on? A continuing resolution is a short-term solution,” Wagner said. “DOE needs to kind of weigh what the language means then provide us guidance as to what our funding levels would be and then they would either tell us to continue to move forward with restructuring or to stand down at least temporarily from that.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.