The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Thursday, August 21, 2003

DOE to pay Kentucky $1 million in fines
In the letter of intent, DOE is given more cleanup leeway at the gaseous diffusion plant and extends the cleaup deadline.

By Bill Bartleman

The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to pay the state of Kentucky $1 million in fines for environmental infractions at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

The settlement was included in a letter of intent signed Wednesday by DOE and the state that gives DOE more leeway in cleanup activities, extends the deadline for cleanup from 2010 to 2019 and establishes new timetables for cleaning up the most serious environmental problems. It also will mean millions of dollars in additional funding for cleanup work.

It resolves most issues that have prevented officials from signing an accelerated cleanup agreement that DOE proposed two years ago and sets the stage for a formal binding agreement that is to be signed by Sept. 15.

Gov. Paul Patton, who was directly involved in negotiating the agreement, said it does not compromise health and safety of plant workers or the public. "The agreement ensures that the entire site will eventually be cleaned up to meet current Kentucky environmental standards," he said in an interview after signing the agreement.

"It includes specific plans to clean up the most serious contamination and establishes firm dates to get the work done. It obligates DOE to ask Congress for the money it needs to get the work done on time."

Patton said it also removes bureaucratic hindrances such as unnecessary paperwork between DOE and state regulators that often delayed work.

Patton said the deadline for completing the cleanup was extended to 2019 because the 2010 goal, set 10 years ago, is not realistic. "It gives the federal government the time it realistically needs to complete the work," Patton said.

Jessie Roberson, DOE deputy secretary of waste management, said the key to the agreement is that DOE can be more efficient by spending less on bureaucratic paperwork and more on actual cleanup work.

"This agreement provides the framework necessary to accelerate cleanup, and it is a major step to effectively reduce health risks and expedite the environmental cleanup," Roberson said. She said the agreement "creates a new way of doing business" that will result in greater accountability and more progress.

The letter of intent was signed Wednesday morning in Frankfort by Patton and then returned to Washington, where it was signed by Roberson.

Issues to be resolved before the final agreement is signed Sept. 15 include DOE's compliance with state environmental regulations on managing hazardous material storage areas, classification of the contents of 5,100 drums of waste and management of depleted uranium.

It was violations related to management of those areas that resulted in the $1 million fine. If DOE fails to meet compliance commitments in the agreement, it could receive additional fines.

DOE also agrees to spend $200,000 for unspecified environmental improvement projects near the plant.