The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Thursday, February 20, 2003

Divisive USEC resolution may never be called for vote
What began as a show of support for the Paducah plant became endangered by lawmakers near Piketon.

By Bill Bartleman bbartleman@paducahsun.com--270.575.8650

FRANKFORT, Ky.--A resolution encouraging USEC Inc. to build its gas centrifuge enrichment plant in Paducah may die a slow death because of opposition from a northeastern Kentucky lawmaker who represents a district close to Piketon, Ohio, which is competing for the plant.

Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore, said that she has relatives and constituents who work at USEC's Ohio facility and doesn't want to risk their jobs at the expense of putting the $1 billion plant in Paducah.

Pullin voted with a majority of members to send the bill to the full House for a vote with the understanding that it would be amended to add support for Kentuckians who work at the Ohio plant.

Rep. Charles Geveden, D-Wickliffe, sponsor of the resolution, doesn't know if he can come to an agreement with Pullin. "It would defeat the purpose, which was to encourage USEC to build it in Paducah," Geveden said.

Although Geveden said he's confident the bill would pass without the amendment, he doesn't want it to become a divisive issue between lawmakers in the east and west and result in a split vote. "What message would it send to USEC if we passed it 62-38?" he said.

If he can't reach an agreement, Geveden said he might not call House Resolution 113 for a vote.

The measure, which is nonbinding, simply says the state would offer resources to USEC to help with the development of the new plant, such as research capabilities of the state's universities, assistance with debt financing and programs available through the Economic Development Cabinet.

Geveden noted that most of the 1,300 workers at the Paducah plant live in Kentucky and pay Kentucky taxes. Fewer than 100 Kentuckians work at the Piketon plant.

Geveden said that if the new plant is not built in Paducah, hundreds of workers would lose their jobs, hurting the local economy by costing the state millions of dollars in taxes.

Rep. Howard Cornett, R-Whitesburg, and Keith Hall, D-Phelps, supported Pullin, saying they wanted to protect eastern Kentucky jobs.

Rep. Charles Walton, R-Florence, however, said Kentucky lawmakers should vigorously support Geveden's resolution because it would help all of Kentucky. "This is good for the state," he said.

While Geveden doesn't agree with Pullin, he said he is sympathetic to her concerns. "I guess if the situation was reversed and the plant was located across the across the river in Illinois," he said, "I would feel the same way."