Tuesday, July 8, 1997
Group blasts feds on cleanup plan

Enquirer Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - A watchdog group Monday criticized Department of Energy (DOE) plans for privatizing parts of the cleanup at Fernald and other former weapons sites as it rushes to meet a 10-year cleanup schedule.

The Military Production Network, a coalition of citizens' groups that monitors cleanup efforts, released a 17-page analysis that said what the department calls privatization is no more than a form of subcontracting that will result in higher long-term costs and less citizen oversight.

DOE officials said they were studying the report.

It cited privatization efforts at Portsmouth, Ohio, and Paducah, Ky., as examples of firms being allowed to shield information to guard against "liability that might result from citizen awareness of their operations."

"If DOE contractors continue to use the cover provided by DOE's privatization contracts to avoid public scrutiny and to nullify existing citizen oversight of cleanup efforts, the results are likely to be the kind of scandals and pollution problems that were caused by the operations of the old DOE," the report said.

The report was prepared by Dr. William J. Weida, economist at Colorado College.

The Fernald waste pits and Silo 3 wastes are targeted for DOE privatization in the 1998 budget.

To interest contractors, DOE has to assume many of the costs and liabilities that might be borne by the contractor in most privatization situations, the report said.

DOE spokeswoman Anne Elliott warned Monday night that delays in privatization would cause legal problems with the states and the Environmental Protection Agency. The department proposes $41 million in privatization projects for Fernald in its 1998 budget.