The following analysis of how President Obama's FY 13 budget request will impact Kentucky includes quotes from ANA member Don Hancock regarding Cold War nuclear waste cleanup in Paducah and around the country.
Feb. 13, 2012
By James R. Carroll
From the Louisville Courier-Journal
WASHINGTON — If congressional Republicans and the White House could agree — a remote possibility in an election year — major transportation projects such as the Ohio River bridges could get federal funding from an infrastructure bank President Barack Obama proposed Monday in his 2013 budget.
Obama first proposed the bank last fall but could not find enough support on Capitol Hill for it. This being a presidential election year, in which all members of the House and a third of the Senate are facing the voters, prospects for a deal on the bank are very uncertain.
In Obama’s proposed budget, $10 billion would be available to leverage private investments in projects such as the Ohio River bridges.
Such investment is becoming increasingly important as gas tax revenues, a traditional source for highway and bridge projects, decline. State budgets also have been squeezed during the recession.
Rep. John Yarmuth, D-3rd District, who has advocated an infrastructure bank for years, praised the president’s spending blueprint as “a vision for how the country can succeed.”
“Investing in infrastructure, education and research guarantees that we will continue to grow our economy and keep our recovery moving forward,” the congressman said. “It puts American workers back on the job building our roads and bridges, and it opens the door for public-private partnerships by creating an infrastructure bank.”
“It does all this while bringing our deficit down to sustainable levels,” Yarmuth added.
But Kentucky Republicans met the overall Obama budget proposals with attacks.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama’s plan “isn’t really a budget at all — it’s a campaign document.”
“The game plan is clear,” McConnell said in a Senate floor speech. “Rather than reach out to Congress to craft a consensus budget, the president will take this budget on the road, as he did today, and talk about the parts he thinks audiences will like. What he won’t say is that it’s bad for job creation, bad for seniors, and that it will make the economy worse.”
Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers, R-5th District and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he was willing to work with the White House in areas of “mutual interest.” But he added that “the president’s budget falls exceptionally short in many critical areas — including a lack of any substantive proposal for mandatory and entitlement spending reform.”
Despite the criticisms of the budget as a whole, many area projects are likely to clear the arduous appropriations process, as they have in previous years.
For example, the administration is seeking $411 million for the destruction of chemical weapons stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Madison County. The depot is building facilities that will destroy 523 tons of nerve and blister agent.
The proposed spending is a significant increase over the current $222.7 million.
“The funding request for the Kentucky chemical weapons disposal project reflects the continued commitment by the Pentagon to the accelerated effort to rid us of these weapons,” said Craig Williams, director of the Chemical Weapons Working Group, a citizens’ advisory group in Berea.
At the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, continued operations to clean up decades of chemical and radiological contamination from nuclear weapons work would be funded at $132.2 million, about the same amount as in the current year.
Most environmental cleanup projects overseen by the Department of Energy at nuclear facilities are being funded at roughly the same levels as the current budget, said Don Hancock, nuclear waste program director with the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque, N.M., one of the organizations that belongs to the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.
The Paducah plant’s facility to convert depleted uranium into a more stable state was behind schedule in 2011, but is now operating.
Hancock said the Energy Department is not asking enough for cleanup at Paducah and other sites.
“We would argue that they are always underfunding because at Paducah, like other places, whatever levels they clean up to they say are good enough, whether they are really good enough or not,” Hancock said.
The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, which enforces safety in the nation’s mines, is slated for nearly $371.9 million in 2013, a decrease of $627,000 from the current spending level. Kentucky is the country’s thrid-largest producer of coal.
At the Department of Energy, coal-related research, such as projects related to clean coal, would receive a $92 million reduction. Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association, said “the administration is ignoring the energy potential of the world’s largest supply of coal.”
The budget allocation for the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville would remain essentially the same next year as this year: $25 million.
The administration budgeted $85 million for work on the Wolf Creek Dam on the Cumberland River, which was identified by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007 as a “high-risk” facility and is undergoing work to fix seepage problems.