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Portman and Brown Urge Department to Take Steps to Prevent Layoffs, Protect Ohio Jobs at Piketon Plant

8/1/2014, 11:27 p.m.

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined members of the Ohio Congressional delegation calling on the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to take steps to prevent the possible layoffs of nearly 700 workers employed on the cleanup of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon. In their letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, the senators urged the Department to advocate within the Obama Administration and with Members of Congress to forestall the proposed layoffs and help continue the cleanup of the site.

“The Department of Energy (DOE) has worked collaboratively with the Piketon community to develop an aggressive cleanup strategy that would see the project completed by 2024, improve the environmental footprint of the site, prepare the site for reindustrialization, save taxpayer dollars, and maximize employment levels,” the delegation wrote. “But last week’s announcement put the Department of Energy’s previous efforts in jeopardy. If DOE fully exercises the layoffs, it would mean a loss of one-third of the current workforce. This would significantly delay the completion date for the project which would inflate the project’s cost and force taxpayers to pay billions more to complete the same amount of work.”

Portman and Brown were joined on the letter by U.S. Representatives Bill Johnson (OH-6), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Brad Wenstrup (OH-2), and Steve Stivers (OH-15).

Earlier today at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, Portman pressed Department of Energy Deputy Secretary nominee Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall for answers on Piketon. Video can be found here.

The letter can be seen in its entirety below.

The Honorable Ernest Moniz

Secretary of Energy

U.S. Department of Energy

1000 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20585

Dear Mr. Secretary;

We write regarding the recent announcement that nearly 700 workers employed on the cleanup of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant could be laid off by October of this year. If these layoffs are allowed to occur it will be a significant economic blow to southern Ohio, as such we would like to work with you to provide the resources necessary to maintain the workforce and continue the progress made on cleanup efforts..

The Department of Energy (DOE) has worked collaboratively with the Piketon community to develop an aggressive cleanup strategy that would see the project completed by 2024, improve the environmental footprint of the site, prepare the site for reindustrialization, save taxpayer dollars and maximize employment levels. But last week’s announcement puts the Department of Energy’s previous efforts in jeopardy. If DOE fully exercises the layoffs, it would mean a loss of one-third of the current workforce. This would significantly delay the completion date for the project which would inflate the project’s cost and force taxpayers to pay billions more to complete the same amount of work.

House and Senate Appropriators are currently working on both a Continuing Resolution and a budget supplemental. We request your support in advocating within the Administration and with Members of Congress to forestall the proposed layoffs at the site.

Congress charged DOE with the responsibility of remediating gaseous diffusion sites in the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Since 2005, DOE’s office of Environmental Management has been overseeing the cleanup work in Piketon, Ohio. In 2009, DOE made a Secretarial commitment to the community to accelerate the cleanup in an effort to jumpstart the local economy and create jobs. The project currently employees 1,900 individuals and DOE has estimated that the cleanup will be completed in 2024.

Thank you for continuing to work with the Ohio delegation on this matter. We look forward to working with you to ensure the site is cleaned up safely and expeditiously