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D.C. Dispatches

July 27, 2008

By Jonathan Riskind and Jack Torry, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

Jul. 27–Company files request for aid to build Piketon plant

The company seeking to build a $3.5 billion uranium-enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio, requested government support for the project Friday.

As long expected, USEC submitted an application for a federal loan guarantee that some experts consider crucial to the company’s hopes of building a plant that would employ hundreds on the site of the old enrichment facility closed in 2001 by USEC.

The U.S. Energy Department has begun accepting proposals from companies seeking part of $38.5 billion in federal loan guarantees for energy projects. USEC didn’t say how much it has requested, but the company was expected to seek the entire $2 billion set aside for enrichment-type activities.

USEC officials have said the demonstration plant running at Piketon shows that their “American centrifuge” technology will work, and they have insisted they can get financing for a commercial enrichment plant that will begin operating by late 2009 with or without a federal loan guarantee. But the company said last week that “a DOE loan guarantee is currently viewed by USEC as the path for obtaining debt financing to complete the commercial plant.”

It’s not known how much competition USEC will face. Several other enrichment-plant projects are in stages around the country, including ones in Idaho and New Mexico led by European companies.

USEC, a privatized federal corporation, says it should have the upper hand as an American company employing U.S. technology that was originally the work of the Energy Department.

Rep. Space assails GOP over defeat of oil-reserve release

Rep. Zack Space, D-Dover, denounced House Republicans for “partisan nonsense” after the House failed last week to approve a bill that would have released about 70 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

By a vote of 268-157, House Democrats failed to muster the votes of two-thirds of the chamber necessary to approve the measure, which would have put about three days of oil on the U.S. market.

“We had a chance to increase supply, and a handful of Republicans managed to ensure that we missed that chance,” Space said in a statement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., needed a two-thirds vote because she refused to allow Republicans to offer amendments that might have opened the U.S. coasts and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. Pelosi has refused to permit a floor vote on any measure allow drilling offshore and in ANWR.

Space’s statement drew a testy response from Sean Bartley, a spokesman for Space’s Republican opponent, Fred Dailey. “It’s the speaker and Zack Space who have not been allowing a vote on drilling offshore or ANWR and other places that have proven oil reserves,” Bartley said.

Foe says Tiberi flip-flopping on housing-crisis legislation

Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, was under fire last week from Democratic opponent David Robinson after Tiberi voted for a massive housing bill aimed at reducing foreclosures and stabilizing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“Pat Tiberi needs to stop flip-flopping on the housing crisis,” Robinson said, pointing out that two months ago Tiberi opposed a version of the bill.

Robinson noted that Tiberi voted for the measure only after President Bush dropped a veto threat and said he would sign the bill. “It’s not clear why the congressman had to wait months for permission to do so from the White House,” Robinson said.

Not so, insisted Breann Gonzalez, a Tiberi spokeswoman. The earlier version, she said, did not include a plan to stabilize Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Gonzalez said Tiberi “still thinks there are problems with this bill, but he thinks the repercussions of doing nothing to stabilize the financial markets would be far more devastating than the bad policies in this bill.”

Tiberi broke with House Republican leaders. It was the second time in a week that he found himself in the minority of his party: He also voted for the Democratic measure to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Compiled by Jonathan Riskind and Jack Torry of The Dispatch Washington Bureau.

jriskind@dispatch.com

jtorry@dispatch.com

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