U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, (KY-01), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, today led a hearing on legislation he introduced - the Energy and Revenue Enrichment Act of 2011, (H.R. 2054) - that would generate revenue for environmental cleanup while also maintaining jobs at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
At today's hearing, Rep. Whitfield and his colleagues heard from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell who, along with Sen. Rand Paul, has introduced similar legislation in the Senate, and from Jim Key, President of the United Steelworkers Union Local 550 in Paducah.
Whitfield, in his opening statement, spoke of his efforts on how to handle the spent nuclear waste currently housed in more than 40,000 canisters in Paducah and in about 28,000 canisters at a plant in Portsmouth, Ohio.
"For the last five or six years, I along with others have had a lot of discussions with the Department of Energy about re-enriching this material which would accomplish a number of things," said Whitfield. "Number one: it [re-enriching the depleted uranium tails] would provide additional revenue to the federal government. Number two: It would help the environmental cleanup certainly in Paducah as well as in Piketon, Ohio. And number three: it would prolong the life of the uranium enrichment plant in Paducah, Kentucky at which we have 1,200 jobs at stake."
Sen. McConnell, in testifying before Rep. Whitfield's subcommittee, said the legislation would not only help reduce our deficit but also keep Kentuckians employed. "At a time of fiscal crisis and double-digit unemployment, a plan to re-enrich these tails helps employ people and reduce our deficit." Sen. McConnell also praised Rep. Whitfield's efforts on this issue saying "I don't know where we would be on this issue without Congressman Whitfield so I thank you for what you've [Whitfield] done and let's continue to work on this issue together."
During the hearing, Jim Key, President of the United Steelworkers Local 550 in Paducah testified in favor of Rep. Whitfield's legislation. Key began his statement saying that Whitfield's legislation presented a, "unique opportunity to clean-up waste, preserve jobs and actually make money for the government."
Further, in his opening statement, Key stated that the jobs and wages from Paducah's Gaseous Diffusion Plant were vital to the health of the local community.
"1,200 workers are employed at the enrichment facility which is scheduled to shut down after new technologies come on board. The wages of the workers at the facility turn over six to seven times within our regional community, providing over $50 million annually for the economy which has direct effect on the viability of local businesses," said Key. "Services and goods purchased by our combined workforce allow businesses to not only operate, but to also thrive, and provide the tax base of the community as a whole."
Key added that the Whitfield legislation would pay for itself while also raising money for the federal government.
"The proposed program requires no appropriation. It is self-funding in that a portion of the natural uranium feed generated will be sold to pay for the enrichment," said Key. "This program is remarkable in that it actually raises revenue for the Federal Government through the sale of the re-enriched uranium. This program would utilize all the resources of the Paducah plant while it is still operational."
Rep. Whitfield's legislation will be voted on by the Subcommittee on Energy and Power on Wednesday, June 15, 2011.