WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of WARN notices for workers at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today called on both leadership of the Senate Appropriators Committee and the Obama Administration to fully fund the decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) operations at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon. This week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – which oversees D&D projects – announced that a budget shortfall caused by the Senate and House fiscal year 2016 appropriations for the project at Piketon will result in layoffs at the facility.

“For years, the employees at the Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Portsmouth have worked to clean and restore the site. But a downturn in the uranium market and insufficient funding for ongoing operations have resulted in a budget shortfall and potential layoffs,” said Brown. “Congress must come together to provide the resources needed to continue cleanup progress and support the community. Setbacks on this project will hurt workers and southeast Ohio’s economy. That’s why sequestration’s mindless cuts must end, and it is why I’ll continue to pursue every option to secure the funding necessary to prevent layoffs.” 

Following the news, Brown sent a letter to leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting that funds be appropriated to continue the current pace of D&D efforts at Portsmouth for the entire 2016 fiscal year – either through the direct appropriation of $275 million or through another year-long budget anomaly. He also wrote to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shaun Donovan and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz to work with Congress to facilitate adequate funding to continue operations at Portsmouth.

Brown has repeatedly called on the Obama Administration and Senate Appropriators to fully fund the cleanup of the plant. In March, Brown wrote to leaders of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee requesting full funding of the cleanup site. In January he wrote to OMB Director Donovan requesting full funding for the project in President’s FY 2016 budget. In December 2014, Brown helped avert layoffs at the facility and secured more than $200 million in direct funding to continue cleanup efforts as part of the FY15 omnibus appropriations bill.  

Full text of the Brown’s letter to Senate appropriators is below and available here.  

 

August 27, 2015

 

 

The Honorable Thad Cochran                                              The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski
Chairman                                                                               Ranking Member        
Senate Committee on Appropriations                                   Senate Committee on Appropriations
S-128, The Capitol                                                                S-128, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20510                                                        Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Mikulski:

Last year, I worked with you to ensure that the decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) efforts at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (Portsmouth) in Piketon, Ohio, would continue without interruption or layoffs to the facility’s workforce.  This was made possible because, along with my colleagues in the Ohio delegation, I requested, and you supported, a budget anomaly from the Office of Management and Budget. This anomaly allowed the Department of Energy (DOE) to continue D&D funding above the level appropriated in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 appropriations.

This year, I wrote to the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee requesting that Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Feinstein provide the $275 million necessary to support the current pace of operations at Portsmouth.  Unfortunately, due to sequestration’s arbitrary spending caps, the subcommittee funded the project at the President’s requested level for FY 2016 ($165 million).  The House Appropriators provided a higher level ($213 million) than the Senate but, unfortunately, those funds will not continue clean up at the current level.  Because of the failure to provide adequate funding for Portsmouth, WARN notices have been issued to hundreds of Portsmouth employees, increasing the urgent need to come together and address this funding shortfall.

As the fiscal year ends, it does not appear that Congress will pass the fiscal year 2016 Energy and Water appropriations bill by the end of September.  The result will likely be that Congress passes a short-term continuing resolution (CR). Passage of a short-term CR means that the DOE will apportion funds at the lower Senate-funded level. 

Because of the funding challenges, I ask that you again take action to continue the current level of funding for D&D efforts at Portsmouth.  I also ask you appropriate funds to continue the current pace of operations at Portsmouth for the entire 2016 fiscal year.  This can be done directly by appropriating the necessary funds ($275 million) or through another year-long anomaly.

Portsmouth’s D&D efforts are an integral part of the Department of Energy’s commitment to the people of southern Ohio.  Continued operations at the present level is an essential part of that commitment.  I look forward to working with you to preserve the jobs at this facility.

Full text of Brown’s letter to OMB and DOE is below and available here.

August 27, 2015

 

The Honorable Shaun Donovan                                              The Honorable Ernest Moniz
Director                                                                                   Secretary        
Office of Management and Budget                                       U.S. Department of Energy
725 17th Street, NW                                                                100 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20503                                                          Washington, DC 20585

 

 

Dear Director Donovan and Secretary Moniz;

Last year, I worked with you to ensure that the decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) efforts at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (Portsmouth) in Piketon, Ohio, would continue without interruption or layoffs to the facility’s workforce.  This was made possible because, along with my colleagues in the Ohio delegation, I requested, and you provided, a budget anomaly that allowed the Department of Energy (DOE) to continue D&D funding above the level appropriated in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 appropriations.

Now, funding for Portsmouth is again at risk.  The President’s budget for FY 2016 failed to include funds sufficient to continue the current pace of D&D operations at Portsmouth.  Additionally, the funding levels included in the FY 2016 Energy and Water appropriations bills passed by the Senate and House Appropriations Committees also fail to fund the current pace of D&D operations.  The Senate bill matches the President’s budget request ($167 million) while the House bill provides $213 million.  Both of these numbers will result in layoffs at Portsmouth.

Because of the failure to provide adequate funding for Portsmouth, WARN notices have been issued to hundreds of Portsmouth employees, increasing the urgent need to come together and address this funding shortfall.

As the fiscal year ends, it does not appear that Congress will pass the fiscal year Energy and Water 2016 appropriations bill by the end of September.  The result will likely be that Congress passes a short-term continuing resolution (CR). Passage of a short-term CR means that the DOE will apportion funds at the lower Senate-funded level. 

Because of the funding challenges, including the uncertainty posed by a CR, I ask that you again provide an anomaly which continues the current level of funding for efforts at Portsmouth for all of FY 2016.

Portsmouth’s D&D efforts are an integral part of the DOE’s commitment to the people of southern Ohio.  I believe that continued operations at the present level is an essential part of that commitment.  I look forward to working with you to preserve the jobs at this facility.

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