News 12 First at Five / Thursday, July 18, 2013
AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Dozens of people showed up to hear the news.
"The Savannah River Site is the single most important economic driver of this five-county region," said Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce President J. David Jameson.
Jameson was one of the many who heard from a Department of Energy official about how President Barack Obama's proposed budget would affect Savannah River Site.
"The funding is just short for what the Savannah River Site should be accomplishing," Jameson said.
On Thursday, the expected impacts were announced for the first time. SRS will lose tens of millions of dollars worth of funding, and that'll mean layoffs.
"How many layoffs are we talking about?" asked News 12's Chad Mills.
"Well, what they talked about today is they kept using the number of around 600 people," said Jameson, who admits that number is still in flux.
The cuts include a $60 million slash to liquid waste cleanup and that's why the 600-plus jobs could be lost at Savannah River Remediation.
"Our commitment remains the same," said Dr. David Moody, the DOE Manager for SRS. "If you're living near the site, understand we're going to protect our workers, and we're going to protect the environment."
Moody says even though this isn't the toughest budget he's dealt with, this is a hard one.
"We never get all of the funds that we would like to have," Moody said.
"It's happening here seemingly more than at some of the other DOE sites in the country, which is very frustrating," Jameson said.
Jameson's only hope is that Congress will act by changing President Obama's budget and passing their own before Oct. 1.
"This seems to be all about the budget. The Congress isn't even seemingly working on the budget right now. It's very frustrating in the local communities," Jameson said.
Otherwise, Jameson says, the country will go into "Continuing Resolutions," which could mean even less funding for SRS.
Aside from layoffs, Moody says certain programs and goals at SRS could be slowed down or completely halted. In particular, Moody says the site may have to wait years to close more nuclear waste tanks.
However, the fight's not over. Congress could pass its own budget and reappropriate those funds. But at this point, many people doubt Congress will pass a budget in time.
However, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., is determined to act. He sent News 12 this statement:
“The news of possible layoffs at Savannah River Remediation is yet another attack on the Savannah River Site by the current Administration. A full, dedicated workforce is necessary to carry out the Site's unique missions. I will continue to serve as SRS’ biggest advocate in Washington and have reached out to the Department of Energy regarding this matter on behalf of the hardworking individuals at the Site.”