The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Lawmakers say Bush's cleanup budget not enough
Kentucky also is upset at the reduction, and the state could wind up suing the Department of Energy for falling behind.

By Bill Bartleman bbartleman@paducahsun.com--270.575.8650

President Bush's plan to reduce Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup funds by $13.7 million next year isn't sitting well with Kentucky's congressional delegation or state environmental regulators.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham on Monday released details of a Department of Energy budget that was effectively dead on arrival in Congress. The Senate on Friday approved a cleanup budget containing $1 billion more systemwide than Bush's proposal. The Senate action is the first of many steps before the budget is finalized and before funding priorities are set at each plant.

Kentucky's congressional delegation also will try to increase funding for the new lock at Kentucky Dam from the $14.4 million recommended by Bush to $55 million. They also will work to increase funding for the Olmsted Lock and Dam on the Ohio River from $34 million to about $70 million, and to include almost $500,000 in the budget to dredge the Hickman Harbor.

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, wants at least $100 million for cleanup at the Paducah plant, according to Anthony Hulen, his press secretary. "Bush is proposing $62.2 million, and we're going to ask for at least $100 million," Hulen said.

The $62.2 million is slightly above the amount proposed last year by President Clinton. However, Congress increased the figure then to almost $76 million.

State environmental regulators say the proposed cut, if approved by Congress, would jeopardize DOE's 2010 deadline for completing cleanup at the Paducah plant and increase the possibility that the state would go to court to force DOE to meet the deadline.

The work involves removing thousands of tons of contaminated scrap material, cleaning the groundwater, cleaning contaminated soil and cleaning contamination in buildings.

To meet the deadline, a minimum of $100 million needs to be spent each year, Gov. Paul Patton has said.

The governor was disappointed by the Bush recommendation, said Jack Conway, an executive cabinet deputy secretary speaking for Patton Monday. Conway said one report estimates that cleanup will cost $2 billion. "If they only spend $62 million next year, that's not going to get the job done by 2010," Conway said.

The first step will be to "continue a positive working relationship with the congressional delegation" to increase funding during the budget process, which will take several months, Conway said. If that effort fails, he said, legal remedies could force an increase.

The state is resolute about the 2010 deadline, said Matt Hackatorn, director of environmental management for the Cabinet for Natural Resources. "We are disappointed in the proposed cut and consider it detrimental to the cleanup work," he said. "It will only result in them asking for more delays."

Hulen said other parts of the Bush budget face congressional changes. Bush called for spending $10 million on recycling plants in Paducah and Portsmouth, Ohio, to convert depleted uranium into a usable material. Hulen said at least $30 million is needed to complete the design phase of the plants.

Congress probably will also consider more money for a fund that helps communities cope with reduced employment at DOE plants. Bush included just over $10 million nationwide. "We are going to push for $10 million just for Paducah," Hulen said.

Hulen said Whitfield will ask for at least $4 million to continue an aggressive health monitoring and testing program for current and former workers at the enrichment plants in Paducah and Portsmouth.