By Frank Lewis
Pike and Scioto County officials complained during a recent news conference that there were so many unfilled vacancies in the U.S. Department of Energy that they were having a difficult time contacting anyone at that all important department about the need for support for finding $110 million to fill a projected shortfall for 2015 in the Decommissioning and Decontamination project at Piketon. Now, U.S. Senator Rob Portman has announced he will bring Department of Energy Acting Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management Mark Whitney and Senior Advisor to DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz, David Foster to Piketon Thursday.
At the early August news conference, several officials referred to a “disconnect” between local officials and the DOE.
“In the last three years when we’ve gone over there, we used to have Ines Triay, who was great. She was EM-1 (top person in Environmental Management),” Pike County Commissioner Blaine Beekman said. “They haven’t had an EM-1 in three years. So all you have is an acting EM-1. It’s like you have a total disconnect within DOE.”
Scioto County Commissioner Mike Crabtree echoed Beekman’s frustration.
“It’s unfortunate that the federal government, when it’s in their best interest, they don’t have any trouble coming up with funding for their projects, but when it’s dealing with something they have the responsibility for - they have polluted our surface water here in southern Ohio for years - and now it’s time to do what they promised to do - what we expect them to do - and everybody plays dumb when you try to deal with them in Washington (DC),” Crabtree said. “They have a responsibility to the community. They have a responsibility to all of southern Ohio to clean up what they messed up and for some reason nobody seems to know who has the authority or no one wants to take the authority to do what they know is the right thing to do for this area.”
The project is funded 70 percent by the open market sale of uranium and only 30 percent by appropriations and according to officials from Fluor-B&W, uranium prices have fallen greatly in the last couple of years, and the government’s portion has been cut.
When he is in Piketon Thursday, Portman will also meet with the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI) board, including local elected officials and union representatives.
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.