Let me assure the editorial staff, the readers of The Paducah Sun, but more importantly the workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and nearby residents, that the state of Kentucky is not delaying its response to an accelerated cleanup plan proposed by the Department of Energy (DOE).
As a matter of fact, the state, as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency, provided an initial response to the DOE proposal last month.
Last week I had conversations with William Murphie, of DOE's Senior Management Team, as well as with Ms. Jessie Roberson, assistant secretary of environmental management for DOE. I have assured both of them that the state of Kentucky is committed to doing what it can to reach an agreement with DOE on an accelerated cleanup plan.
We're also committed to supporting efforts in obtaining cleanup funds for the plant, continuing efforts by Gov. Paul Patton and myself that began several years ago. Politics has not played a part in our effort as we have worked hand-in-hand with our congressional delegation. Gov. Patton and I have met with the previous DOE secretary and have testified before congressional committees on the need for environmental cleanup at the Paducah plant.
At the public meeting last week, Mr. Murphie and representatives of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet and the federal EPA all agreed now is the time to work out the details of the plan. As Mr. Murphie pointed out last week, this is not an "us-versus-them" situation.
Negative publicity about the Paducah plant pales in comparison to the very serious contamination at the site. These are serious problems requiring solutions and a lasting commitment from all parties. Any skepticism we may have can be traced to previous DOE proposals, even as Mr. Murphie admitted he was another in a line of DOE managers presenting a another cleanup plan to the community.
Gov. Patton has asked that I take the lead in resolving these issues with DOE. Working jointly with Marcia Morgan, secretary of the Cabinet for Health Services, our staffs and other appropriate state officials, that is what I am doing. Our goal is to have an enforceable agreement with DOE that provides for protection of human health and the environment.
Make no mistake, though, about our commitment. We want the site cleaned up, as quickly as possible, and will work hard to see that is accomplished. The residents who have been affected by the contamination as well as the workers at the plant deserve nothing less.
JAMES E. BICKFORD
Secretary, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet