Concerns grow over distribution of SRS settlement money

CSRA News

AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – Leaders involved in Aiken’s Municipal Development Commission say the settlement money awarded to South Carolina by the Department of Energy should stay within 3 counties of the state.

In a letter written to Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon and copied to Governor McMaster, the commission says Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale should be the beneficiary because they are the only counties within South Carolina that carried the burden of Savannah River Site’s plutonium shipping and storage.

There is concern among the commission that outside of the Aiken County legislative delegaton, state leaders may have a separate agenda when it comes to the distribution of these funds and that the majority of the money will be awarded outside the SRS region.

In a quote from the letter, “Any effort to exploit the settlement proceeds for unrelated state projects would be a disservice to those communities who share the ongoing risk. We believe the allocation of funds should be based on an objective measure such as the number of SRS employees as a percent of the total employees in these three counties should be apportioned to each incorporated governmental municipalities within these three counties.”

The Savannah River Site has set within the borders of Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale counties for more than 70 years. In August of 2020, the state of South Carolina and the Department of Energy settled after years of discourse regarding the removal of the plutonium. In court, South Carolina claimed the DOE did not meet its promise to have the reactive material removed after South Carolina, in a good faith effort, accepted the plutonium from across the country.

Summarizing in the letter, the Aiken Municipal Development Commission lists expectations which they expect the state to carry out regarding the money. The list is as follows:

  • Settlement proceeds should be placed into a Special fund specifically for Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell counties
  • Only Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale Counties should be beneficiaries of these funds
  • This issue must he the top priority for the Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale legislative delegations
  • The full $525 Million needs to be delivered to these impacted counties
  • The distribution of funds should he based on the formula that only includes employee population residence within the three impacted counties
  • Allocation of funds should he objective, not project specific
  • Elected City and County Councils in Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell counties should then decide the best use of those funds as allocated them by the proposed employee-census formula to meet local priorities.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

Governor Henry McMaster spoke with a number of reporters including NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk about the settlement at an unveiling of the new Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative at USC Aiken. He said that he believes the money should be focused in this area. “We don’t have the money yet. It hadn’t come yet. We want to be sure that the Department of Energy fulfills its commitment, not only to do for those funds and possibly future funds but also removing that plutonium from the state of South Carolina,” Governor McMaster said. “The question of what to do with that money is one that needs to be answered of course there needs to be a focus on this area because this is where the action has been,” he added.

When asked about what projects he would like to see the money used on, he said, “I think everybody probably has dozens of things that we’d like to see funding, but we need to be smart and need to be careful and take our time, but I’m sure they know they did do deliberation will take place.”

Meanwhile, two county governments and a regional economic development group filed suit against SC Atty General Alan Wilson, seeking to temporarily halt disbursement of $600 million in DoE plutonium settlement funds pending court review.

Count on NewsChannel 6 to keep you updated on this developing story.

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