By Joe Walker firstname.lastname@example.org
Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, said he has not been in Washington, D.C., since the anticipated announcement of a waste-conversion contractor was abruptly canceled Tuesday. The Department of Energy has been mum on the delay, reportedly because the Office of Management and Budget, the financial arm of Congress, has reservations about the cost and scope of the project.
"What I suspect is that the OMB is dragging its feet on the cost of it," Whitfield said in a brief interview. "We have some connections, and we hope to get this thing going again."
DOE had planned to announce the winning bidder to build plants in Paducah and Piketon, Ohio, to convert uranium hexafluoride waste into safer material. Each community would gain about 150 jobs lasting roughly 25 years, plus potential economic growth if the material could be used commercially.
Gaining legislation for the conversion plants is one of the trump cards of Whitfield's re-election campaign, announced Friday in stops in Paducah, Murray and other western Kentucky cities. His gathering at the Paducah Information Age Park Resource Center had about 50 supporters, including four who spoke.
David Fuller, former president of the Paducah plant's energy workers union, praised Whitfield for his efforts to get the conversion project, keep the plant open, compensate sick nuclear workers and more than double annual plant cleanup money to about $110 million.
In making his announcement, Whitfield said he was not surprised at the conversion project delay, one of many during the past three years, because "there have been people in the Department of Energy that have been opposing this all along."
Other speakers were Paducah businessman Billy Harper on Whitfield's work for small businesses and economic development; Carlisle County farmer Wayne Wilson on the congressman's backing of agriculture; and Kay Travis of the Paducah Community College Foundation Board on his getting $1.4 million for the Challenger Center.
Whitfield noted his accomplishments on issues such as health care, education, agriculture, energy and small-business development.
He pledged work to strengthen the military, make health care more affordable, establish a prescription drug benefit for seniors and continue work "to restore financial discipline to the federal government."