The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Monday, January 27, 2003

Bunning uses clout to help Paducah
The senator is back on the Senate Energy Committee. He's already introduced amendments requiring two studies related to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

By Bill Bartleman

U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning is back on the Senate Energy Committee which, along with his appointment to the Finance Committee, will give him clout in dealing with issues related to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

One of his first efforts is to pass legislation requiring the General Accounting Office to conduct two studies related to the Paducah plant.

The first calls for a review of the cleanup progress and to study whether the accelerated cleanup program proposed by DOE would benefit the effort. State and federal environmental officials have rejected the accelerated plan, contending that it would reduce oversight because it does not require deadlines for completing individual projects.

The second study is to examine the effectiveness of DOE's compensation program that pays workers and former workers at all DOE facilities up to $150,000 for illnesses they suffered from work-related exposure to toxic substances.

Both of those studies were included in amendments proposed by Bunning to an omnibus appropriations bill approved Thursday by the Senate. However, it must still be approved by the House.

"It is great news that he's back on the Energy Committee," said Ken Wheeler, chairman of a local task force to preserve the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. "He served on it for a couple of years right after he was elected, and got off because he felt he would be more valuable somewhere else. But that's not the case and he's back. It is a great move for Paducah."

Wheeler said that with a tight federal budget and political jockeying for funds and programs, having Bunning on the committee is important.

In addition to the Paducah plant, Bunning said the Energy Committee deals with other issues important to Kentucky, such as coal. He said that will be important in the coming year as lawmakers work to pass a comprehensive energy bill, which it failed to pass last year. A key component of the bill is money for clean coal research projects.

It was one of two changes in committee assignments for Bunning. The other was an appointment to the powerful Finance Committee. Its jurisdiction includes taxes, trade agreements, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare and unemployment compensation, and budget trust matters. Overall, the panel oversees nearly two-thirds of the federal budget, Bunning said.

Bunning is the first Kentuckian to serve on the committee since the late U.S. Sen. Thurston B. Morton was on it 36 years ago.

Bunning said his appointment to the Finance Committee and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell's seat on the Appropriations Committee gives Kentucky unique influence. Also, McConnell is the Senate's majority whip in the House, the second most powerful and influential position.

“Between myself sitting on Finance, and Sen. McConnell on the Appropriations Committee, we will have a say in how practically every single federal dollar is spent," Bunning said.

Kentucky is the only state to have representation on both committees.

Bunning said he was forced to give up his seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which deals with matters related to the military, including issues related to Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, major Army bases located in Kentucky.

Bunning, however, said he'll continue to have clout over military issues because all defense bills go through the Finance Committee.

Bunning also is on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.