EDITOR: I am writing in response to your editorial of May 20 in which you wrongfully assert that I have been "missing in action" on the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant controversy since last fall. The fact is we have worked diligently, and I am confident that my well-documented efforts on behalf of the people of the Paducah region have been effective. I will continue to do all that I can on this issue.
Since I mentioned last fall that the commonwealth would pursue all of our legal remedies for holding the federal Department of Energy to its 2010 environmental cleanup deadline, I have traveled to Washington, D.C., on at least four separate occasions last winter and this spring to press our case for additional funding for the cleanup.
I met personally with, among others, the president of the United States, the vice president, the White House chief of staff, the White House budget director, the secretary of energy and several members of our congressional delegation. In my meetings with Senator McConnell, Congressman Whitfield and others, we agreed to proceed in a bipartisan fashion whereby I would lobby the Clinton administration for a proposed increase in funding, and they would address the issue during the legislative appropriations process.
Furthermore, I made a personal commitment to the leaders of western Kentucky that I would take this issue to the very highest levels of government. By getting the personal attention of both the president and vice president, I fulfilled that commitment. In addition, I asked for and received a personal meeting in the White House for many Paducah civic leaders on this issue.
Throughout January, my staff and I stayed in contact with the Department of Energy and the White House to ensure they understood the importance of proposing additional cleanup funding for Paducah. Shortly thereafter I joined Secretary Richardson in Paducah to announce an additional $100 million in funding for the plant. Although this was not all we asked for, it was a significant increase, and one I can assure you would not have been forthcoming without my personal intervention. This proposed increase also contained about $12 million in emergency supplemental funding for the current fiscal year.
I will continue to lobby the administration for higher funding levels in the future, and I would call upon the Congress, and our delegation in particular, to preserve and perhaps increase the proposed levels for this upcoming fiscal year.
In addition to the funding issue, I have worked this spring to make certain that the Department of Energy does all in its power to ease the pain of any United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) layoffs by attempting to transition those workers to additional cleanup work. I have also made significant efforts to ensure that USEC maintains its commitment to the region including an informal offer of state support for any investment which may be needed to secure the future of the facility in Paducah.
Despite the pressures of a difficult legislative session with challenging budget issues, the fact-finding team headed out of my personal office completed a detailed 41-page report analyzing the state's history of monitoring activities around the gaseous diffusion plant. That report contained a summary of nearly 29,000 radiochemical tests conducted by Kentucky state government and contained a separate, independent analysis of the potential costs of the cleanup at the plant. I am pleased to point out that the work of Kentucky state officials was ratified in the recent General Accounting Office (GAO) report to Congress on the costs of the cleanup. In essence, the GAO accepted thc cost estimations developed this past winter by the fact-finding team.
All of these efforts have been documented by recent media accounts, and I will continue to work on behalf of the people of Paducah just as diligently as I have in the past. Moreover, I reiterate that the commonwealth will pursue all possible remedies if the federal government defaults on its obligation to clean up the site within the agreed upon time frame.
As I said in my testimony before the United States Senate, this is an issue of basic fairness. Paducah stood by the federal government during the Cold War, and it is now time for the federal government to do right by the people of Paducah.
9 The struggle for these funds has now passed to the Congress. I reiterate my pledge to work with our congressional delegation in a bipartisan way to do all within my power to secure congressional approval. Be assured I pledge to stand by the people of Paducah as long as I hold this office.
PAUL E. PATTON