WASHINGTON, D.C.— Joining fellow Ohio legislators, U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup is requesting the Department of Energy to work with Pike County officials regarding an A-plant agreement.
Sending the letter to DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm, the Cincinnati Republican wants the department to give attention towards the Scioto Valley-Piketon Area Council of Governments’ interest in renegotiating the current Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreement.
“Pike County, located in an economically distressed area of Ohio, faces several financial challenges and ensuring that PILT payments accurately compensate the county for lost revenue is one step the DOE can take (to) support this community and the Cold War patriots who have served our nation,” Wenstrup’s letter sent on Wednesday reads.
As Piketon Village Council member Jennifer Chandler told the News Watchman earlier this week, COG is hoping for a significant increase in its PILT. The council includes local government agencies such as the Village of Piketon, the Pike County Commissioners, Pike County General Health District, Scioto Valley Local School District, and Seal and Scioto Townships.
The goal with an improved agreement, Chandler said, would be to offset some of the environmental burdens attached with the site which operated for nearly 50 years in Piketon.
Wenstrup added in his letter that efforts to reindustrialize, both a goal of COG and DOE, could be amplified through an updated PILT.
“The cleanup of the PORTS site offers a promising opportunity for Southern Ohio to reindustrialize, tapping into existing infrastructure and a well-qualified workforce to create an engine for economic growth in the region,” his letter reads.
On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and 2022 Senate hopeful Rep. Tim Ryan sent their own letter to Granholm also requesting an improved PILT.
The two Ohio Democrats listed the closed Zahn’s Corner Middle School specifically in their letter, saying “immediate action” is necessary.
“DOE must continue to rebuild trust in the region and ensuring the PILT agreement fairly compensates communities is one step that must be taken,” the Brown-Ryan letter concludes.
Per the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, DOE compensates local governments from the lost property taxes through PILTS when these communities host DOE sites.
According to a 2019 U.S. Government Accountability Office report, these PILTs more than doubled PILTs between 1994 and 2017. Going out to 12 sites nationwide, payments from the five DOE offices totaled north of $378 million.
Money did come locally, but the majority has gone to DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina and the Hanford Site in Washington. In 2017, those sites received 70% of all DOE PILT funds- a combined sum of $15.2 million.
GAO’s report tracked two payments for the PORTS site, money split between Scioto and Pike counties within those years. In 1998, the two southern Ohio counties received $116,850 from the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management before receiving $473,692 in 2014.
GAO said DOE uses a relatively standard formula to calculate PILTS, multiplying the property’s market value with an assessment ratio and property tax.
Scioto County received more than 75% of the payments despite the 3,777-acre site being located solely in Pike County.
The News Watchman contacted DOE to see if it had reviewed the letters and had a response, but heard no response as of press time.
Contact Patrick Keck at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 740-947-2149, ext. 300431 and follow him on Twitter @pkeckreporter.