Whitfield says he doesn't believe Clinton's veto of an energy and water bill will be a 'major problem.' Fuller says he still has faith in the president.
By Shelley Street The Paducah Sun
U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield predicted that President Clinton's veto of the energy and water spending bill will only delay approval of funding for Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup and construction at the Kentucky Dam lock and the Olmsted lock and dam.
David Fuller, president of Local 5-550 of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy Workers International Union, also was optimistic Sunday that the funds will become available.
Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, said, "The money for fiscal year 2000 is still in the pipeline, and the Department of Energy is such a large department anyway that there is some funding that is not programmed. So I don't believe that this veto is going to create a major problem."
A new bill, which Whitfield expects will include all of the funding for the local projects, should be presented to Congress within the next two weeks.
Changes from the previous bill will likely include additional funding for the restoration of the Florida Everglades, the California-Bay Delta initiative and a plan to restore endangered salmon to the Pacific Northwest. Clinton mentioned all these projects in a statement Saturday about why he vetoed the bill.
Whitfield said, "I'm extremely disappointed in his actions," adding that Clinton's argument that the bill was larded with "scores of special projects for special interests" was weak.
Clinton also said in a statement that the bill did not do enough to address funding for alternative, renewable forms of energy. Whitfield said this is a major area of disagreement between him and the president.
"Our most abundant energy source in our country today is coal. ... We need to be putting more emphasis on developing the technology to better use coal than on developing other sources," he said.
Fuller, however, did not blame Clinton for vetoing this particular bill, which also included funds for worker health and safety programs and programs to help displaced plant workers.
"According to all the reports I have, the administration is supportive of the provisions that would add cleanup dollars to Paducah and that would fund the worker health screenings that have been ongoing," he said. "We have no indication that the administration has lagged in their support for those programs. I believe that it must be other things that are concerning the administration and causing the president to veto this bill."
The cramming of so many appropriations into the legislation so close to the end of the congressional session probably triggered the veto, Fuller said.
"Hopefully they'll go ahead and tailor this bill so that he will pass it and go ahead and get it signed so we can get the benefits to the workers that they so badly need," he said.