Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Bush bypasses Bunning on post

Senator blocked energy official

The Associated Press

PADUCAH, Ky. - A recess appointment by President Bush will mean a new chief financial officer for the Department of Energy.

U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., had blocked the appointment of Susan Grant to highlight what he considers the agency's failed program to compensate sick nuclear workers.

Bush on Friday announced his intention to appoint Grant to the position. She is chief financial officer of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

In a statement Saturday, Bunning explained why he had previously put a hold on Grant's nomination.

"The DOE has shown itself to be incompetent in its handling of the sick worker compensation program," Bunning said. "DOE has failed miserably in its attempt to make any progress in getting well-deserved relief to those workers who have suffered illnesses as a result of their brave work at DOE nuclear plants during the Cold War."

An Energy Department spokeswoman, Chris Kielich, declined comment Monday.

Despite spending $95 million since the measure was passed four years ago, DOE has a backlog of 24,000 claims by people exposed to workplace toxins. Only 10 have been paid, at an average of $22,147 per claim.

No claims have been paid for Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant workers, for whom there is a backlog of 3,000 claims.

"That is simply unacceptable," Bunning said.

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