Santa Fe City Council: LANL Cleanup Order Must Be Strengthened & Expanded Plutonium Pit Production Suspended Until Safety Issues Are Resolved

Santa Fe, NM – On October 25 the Santa Fe City Council passed the following:

A RESOLUTION REQUESTING THAT THE NEW MEXICO ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT STRENGTHEN THE REVISED LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABS CLEANUP ORDER TO CALL FOR ADDITIONAL CHARACTERIZATION OF LEGACY NUCLEAR WASTES, INCREASED CLEANUP FUNDING, AND SIGNIFICANT ADDITIONAL SAFETY TRAINING; AND SUSPEND ANY PLANNED EXPANDED PLUTONIUM PIT PRODUCTION UNTIL SAFETY ISSUES ARE RESOLVED…

The Resolution was co-sponsored by Santa Fe City Councilors Carmichael Dominguez, Michael Harris, Signe Lindell, Joseph Maestas and Renee Villarreal, and unanimously adopted by all eight City Councilors. Mayor Javier Gonzales was not present.

Councilwoman Villarreal, who led the effort, commented:

As emphasized through this resolution, prioritizing cleanup and safety will have a direct impact on the City of Santa Fe and northern NM communities by doing right for past and historic legacy contamination, as well as recent nuclear criticality safety incidents at LANL. Regional economic development would be stimulated through comprehensive cleanup of the Lab. That would be a real win-win for northern New Mexicans, permanently protecting the environment and our water resources while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.

The passage of this Resolution is significant for northern New Mexico for many critical reasons.

The Santa Fe City Council is the first local government to take a position on the revised 2016 Consent Order governing cleanup at LANL. In Nuclear Watch’s view, the revised Consent Order was a giveaway by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to LANL, contrary to the original 2005 Consent Order, because:

  • Ex-NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn, before becoming chief lobbyist for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, granted more than 150 extensions to the 2005 Consent Order at LANL’s request, and then claimed the Order wasn’t working
  • NMED’s chief negotiator for the revised 2016 Consent Order passed through the revolving door to work for a Department of Energy contractor that is now an “interested party” in bidding for the LANL management contract;
  • NMED forgave more than $300 million in potential fines under the 2005 Consent Order, at a time when the State of New Mexico was facing a $600 million budget deficit; and
  • The revised 2016 Consent Order lacks enforceability and allows LANL to get out of cleanup by claiming that it’s too difficult and/or costly.

For documentation, see https://nukewatch.org/pressreleases/NMED-PR-1-16-17.pdf , https://nukewatch.org/pressreleases/2016-Lifecycle-Baseline-Cost-estimate-PR.pdf and https://www.nukewatch.org/pressreleases/NWNM_Consent_Order_PR-6-28-16.pdf

The Santa Fe City Council is also the first local government to take a position that planned expanded plutonium pit production should be suspended until all safety issues are resolved, as certified by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. This follows a number of nuclear criticality safety incidents at the Lab, as outlined in the Resolution.

Ironically, future expanded plutonium pit production is being driven by the nuclear weapons labs for a so-called “Interoperable Warhead” that the US Navy doesn’t want. (See a leaked Navy memo at https://www.nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Navy-Memo-W87W88.pdf and Navy Strategic Missile Boss: Interoperable Warhead Not Yet Required http://seapowermagazine.org/stories/20170525-IW.html)

Moreover, it was recently revealed that the Trump-appointed chairman of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board was secretly arguing for downsizing or abolishing it. Both New Mexico Senators Udall and Heinrich have rallied against that, even introducing an amendment to the FY 2018 Defense Authorization Act protecting the Safety Board. This Santa Fe City Resolution lends additional local support to the Safety Board.

The City of Santa Fe is a member of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, which is comprised of nine cities, counties and pueblos surrounding the Los Alamos Lab. The Coalition is overwhelmingly funded by Los Alamos County and the Department of Energy, and Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is its chairman. The Regional Coalition has yet to take a position calling for enhanced nuclear safety before plutonium pit production is expanded, or against the revised 2016 Consent Order that undermines potential job creation through weak enforcement of cleanup.

Other local governments may pass resolutions similar to that just passed by the City of Santa Fe. Perhaps this could persuade the Regional Coalition to actively advocate for enhanced nuclear safety before plutonium pit production is expanded, and genuine, comprehensive cleanup that could truly drive regional economic development.

# # #

The Santa Fe City Resolution is available at https://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/2017-76-LANL-Cleanup.pdf

 

Chromium Groundwater Contamination at Los Alamos Lab Far Greater Than Previously Expected; LANL’s Treatment Plan Must Be Drastically Changed

The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has detected far more hexavalent chromium (Cr) contamination than previously estimated in the “sole source” regional groundwater aquifer that serves Los Alamos, Santa Fe and the Española Basin. Sampling in July from a new well meant to inject treated groundwater back into the aquifer detected chromium contamination five times greater than the New Mexico groundwater standard of 50 micrograms per liter (ug/L).

Hexavalent chromium is a known carcinogen, and is the culprit in many illnesses as depicted in the well-known film Erin Brockovich. A “sole source aquifer” is a designation given by the Environmental Protection Agency when an aquifer supplies at least 50 percent of the drinking water for its service area and there are no reasonably available alternative drinking water sources should the aquifer become contaminated. Nuclear Watch discovered the alarming data in obscure entries in the Lab’s contamination database IntellusNM (http://intellusnm.com).

The location of the particular well, Chromium Injection Well 6 (CrIN-6), was chosen because LANL thought that it would be on the edge of the chromium groundwater plume where detection samples would be below the New Mexico standard of 50 ug/L, or in other words on the boundary of what legally requires treatment. Given this new information, if this new well is used to inject treated water, it will help push the contamination beyond Lab boundaries instead of blocking it. The thickness of the chromium plume at this location is not exactly known, but elsewhere it contaminates approximately the top 80 feet of the groundwater aquifer.

LANL’s “Chromium Plume Interim Measures Plan”, approved by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), is designed to remove chromium contaminated water from the center of the plume through extraction wells, treat it so it meets the state’s ground water standard, and inject the treated water into the leading edge of the plume in an attempt to slow or halt the plume migration.

CrIN-6 is currently the last proposed injection well, while injection wells 1 through 5 are already active. The new data indicates that the leading edge of the plume passed CrIN-6’s location some time ago. Injecting treated water into it now will only serve to push the plume farther east toward San Ildefonso Pueblo and the Buckman Wells that the City of Santa Fe relies on for a third of its drinking water.

The new data suggest there will have to be will have to be a complete re-thinking of chromium groundwater treatment by LANL and NMED, with more wells needed to both accurately find the true boundary of the chromium plume and eventual treatment. This inevitably means that remediation will take longer and cost more, when at the same time NMED weakened its own regulatory authority through a revised Consent Order governing cleanup that it agreed to with the Department of Energy last year (for more, see background below).

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “Timely budgets for additional urgently needed cleanup work at Los Alamos are far from being a given. The 2016 Consent Order that NMED and DOE negotiated both weakened and delayed cleanup at LANL, and allows DOE to get out of cleanup by simply claiming that it is too expensive or difficult. But we demand that DOE find additional funding to immediately address this threat to New Mexico’s precious water resources, without robbing other badly needed cleanup projects.” In contrast, funding for the Lab’s nuclear weapons that caused the contamination to begin with continues to grow.

NukeWatch Operations Director, Scott Kovac stated, “It is easy for data to get buried and never see the light of day in the Lab’s contamination database. LANL should proactively keep the public continuously informed of important new developments. NMED and LANL must modify and expand the chromium groundwater treatment plan to meet this growing threat. The new well must not be used for injection, and instead treated water should be injected in front of the contaminant source to help permanently flush it out, instead of behind it which will push the contamination offsite.”

# # #

Background

Chart of samples data from Intellus NM compiled by Nuclear Watch. To locate data, go to http://intellusnm.com and search by Location ID.

Field Sample ID Location ID Sample Date Parameter Name Report Result Report Units Sample Time
CrIN6-17-142149 CrIN-6 07-16-2017 Chromium 247.24 ug/L 19:00
CrIN6-17-142150 CrIN-6 07-16-2017 Chromium 249.69 ug/L 23:00
CrIN6-17-142148 CrIN-6 07-17-2017 Chromium 262.07 ug/L 15:00
CrIN6-17-142151 CrIN-6 07-17-2017 Chromium 252.07 ug/L 03:00
CrIN6-17-142152 CrIN-6 07-17-2017 Chromium 260.22 ug/L 11:00
CrIN6-17-142154 CrIN-6 07-17-2017 Chromium 257.65 ug/L 07:00
CrIN6-17-142163 CrIN-6 07-17-2017 Chromium 259 ug/L 15:00

Chromium was released into the head of Sandia Canyon until 1972.

  • Potassium dichromate was used in cooling towers as a corrosion inhibitor at a Laboratory power plant
  • Up to 72,000 kg was released from 1956-72 in hexavalent form [Cr(VI)]

Discovered in 2004

  • A Cr plume is in the regional aquifer at 900–1,000 feet below the canyon bottom at deepest, which places the Cr into the top of the aquifer
  • Size was estimated at approximately 1 mile x 1/2 mile x <50 feet thick
  • Plume edge is approximately 1?2 mile from the closest drinking water well

For how the 2016 Consent Order has weakened NMED’s regulatory authority, see https://nukewatch.org/facts/nwd/Consent-Order-should-be-rescinded-9-10-17.pdf

NMED claims revised Consent Order is a stronger enforcement tool. Not so!

Rebecca Moss at the New Mexican has another hard charging article on safety lapses at the Los Alamos Lab.  See “Lab might have known dangerous waste was unmarked” at www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/lab-might-have-known-dangerous-waste-was-unmarked/article_19d37b31-219a-5620-954c-a62fa9620d2a.html

If the New Mexico Environment Department is claiming, as this article reports, that its revised Consent Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is a stronger enforcement tool than the original 2005 Consent Order, then it is being highly disingenuous (to put it politely).

Interested citizens should judge for themselves. The 2016 revised Consent Order is available at http://www.lanl.gov/environment/protection/compliance/order-on-consent.php

The revised Consent Order was a giveaway by NMED to the Department of Energy and the Lab, surrendering the strong enforceability of the old Consent Order. It is clearly the opposite of the old Consent Order, whose underlying intent was to make DOE and LANL get more money from Congress for accelerated cleanup.

The new Consent Order allows LANL and DOE to get out of future cleanup by simply claiming that it’s too expensive or impractical to clean up. Not long after the revised Consent Order went into effect, DOE took advantage by estimating a lifetime budget that projected a top range of $3.8 billion to clean up the Lab by 2040. That works out to only around $150 million per year, when NMED is already on record that $250 million per year is needed. Most egregious of all, DOE claimed that only 5,000 cubic meters of wastes needed to be cleaned up, purposively misleading the public and politicians by willfully ignoring the ~200,000 cubic meters of radioactive and toxic wastes known to be buried in LANL’s biggest dump alone.

Some of the highlights (or perhaps better put as lowlights) of the revised Consent Order are:

  • “The Parties agree that DOE’s project’s plans and tools will be used to identify proposed milestones and targets.” P. 28. “DOE shall define the use of screening levels and cleanup levels at a site…” P. 32. This puts the Department of Energy in the driver’s seat, not the New Mexico Environment Department
  • “DOE shall update the milestones and targets in Appendix B on an annual basis, accounting for such factors as… changes in anticipated funding levels.” P. 29. Therefore the new Consent Order is held hostage to DOE’s budget.“… [DOE and NMED] shall meet to discuss the appropriation and any necessary revision to the forecast, e.g. DOE did not receive adequate appropriations from Congress…” P. 30. Again, the new Consent Order and therefore cleanup at LANL will be held hostage to DOE funding, when DOE’s own track record makes clear that its priority is expanded nuclear weapons production paid for in part by cutting cleanup and nonproliferation programs.
  • “If attainment of established cleanup objectives is demonstrated to be technically infeasible, DOE may perform risk-based alternative cleanup objectives…” P. 34. DOE can opt out because of “impracticability” or cost of cleanup. P. 35. This creates giant loopholes that threaten comprehensive cleanup at LANL.

Given all this, how can NMED claim with a straight face that the 2016 revised Consent Order is a stronger enforcement tool? This is just more of the Martinez administration coddling the nuclear weapons industry in New Mexico. Indeed, NMED had the gall to give LANL more than 150 extensions to the original Consent Order, and then turned around and claimed the Consent Order was not working and replaced it with a toothless tiger. Furthermore, and this is telling, the main Consent Order negotiator for NMED left shortly after it was signed to go work for a DOE contractor!

New Mexicans should demand comprehensive, enforceable cleanup at the Lab, which would be a real win-win, permanently protecting our precious water resources while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.

 

Oppose Plans To Bring ALL the Nation’s Commercial Reactor Waste To New Mexico!

Oppose Plans To Bring ALL the Nation’s Commercial Reactor Waste To New Mexico!

Contact your New Mexico U.S. Representative ASAP!

Contact Information and Sample Request are Below

Please vote against Shimkus Nuclear Waste Bill

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois) succeeded in rushing his high-level radioactive waste dump/centralized interim storage facility (including parts targeted at New Mexico!) legislation past the Environment and the Economy Subcommittee he chairs.

Title I of the bill provides that the DOE Secretary could enter into agreements to pay for private storage facilities, such as the Holtec site in Eddy and Lea Counties in New Mexico. That would change the existing law’s prohibitions of such DOE action, which have been in place for 35 years.

If a centralized interim storage facility, or “de facto permanent parking lot dump,” is opened at the Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance (ELEA) site near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, incredibly large numbers of high-level radioactive shipments could come to NM. ELEA is a scheme being promoted by the New Jersey-based Holtec International irradiated nuclear fuel shipping/storage container company. Holtec submitted its application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a 40-year license to store 100,000 metric tons of commercial spent fuel. There are currently 80,000 metric tons stored at reactors around the country.

ALL the commercial spent fuel in the country could end up in New Mexico, which has no commercial reactors and did not generate any of this waste.

Please note that Ben Ray Luján (Democrat-New Mexico-3rd U.S. Congressional District) <http://lujan.house.gov/> serves on the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Committee. If you reside in his district, it is especially important that you contact him ASAP, urging his leadership in opposing this bill! And please urge your friends, neighbors, family, etc. to do the same!

If you reside elsewhere in New Mexico, please contact your own U.S. Representative. This bill will impact the entire state of New Mexico — in fact, it will impact the entire country!

 

BEN RAY LUJÁN (Democrat-NM’s 3rd U.S. Congressional District)

Email <https://lujan.house.gov/email-me/>

Washington, D.C. office direct phone number: (202) 225-6190

Santa Fe Office, Ph: (505) 984-8950

 

MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM (Democrat-NM’s 1st U.S. Congressional District)

Email Link <https://lujangrisham.house.gov/contact>

Washington, D.C. Office: Ph:(202) 225-6316

Albuquerque Office: Ph: (505) 346-6781

 

U.S. Rep. STEVE PEARCE (Republican-NM’s 2nd U.S. Congressional District)

Washington, D.C. Office: Phone: (202) 225-2365

Alamogordo Office: Phone: 855-4-PEARCE

 

For More Info

 

 

SAMPLE LETTER

Subject: Please vote against Shimkus Nuclear Waste Bill

Please convey to Rep. Lujan our strong opposition to the Shimkus unnumbered nuclear waste bill that was reported by the Environment Subcommittee of E&C on June 15. We ask that he vote against the bill during full committee markup. We also urge him to speak against the bill and voice New Mexico’s objections to being targeted for ALL of the nation’s commercial spent nuclear fuel.

Title I of the bill provides that the DOE Secretary could enter into agreements to pay for private storage facilities, such as the Holtec site in New Mexico and Waste Control Specialists in Texas. That would change the existing law’s prohibitions of such DOE action, which have been in place for 35 years.

Such a change is unwarranted because spent fuel can stay at the existing reactor storage sites, would allow for unnecessary and dangerous transportation across the nation, and supports a false premise that New Mexicans support such a facility. As the Congressman knows, that is not true. New Mexicans opposed spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste coming to WIPP, which resulted in the prohibition of such waste in the 1992 WIPP Land Withdrawal Act.

New Mexicans and many tribal members opposed the private storage facility proposed on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in the 1990s. New Mexicans continue to oppose bringing spent fuel to the state. The Holtec license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission states that the site would be designed for 100,000 metric tons of commercial spent fuel. That’s ALL of the spent fuel that currently exists (less than 80,000 metric tons), plus decades more of spent fuel production at nuclear power plants.

The bill also has many objectionable provisions related to Yucca Mountain, western water and land rights, reducing environmental protections, among many other things.

Thus, the bill’s many flaws make it unworkable.

Please vote against the bill during markup.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

Your name

City

Zip Code

 

Costs Jump in Nuclear Weapons vs. Cleanup; Nuclear Weapons Winning over Environmental Protection

 America is at a crossroads, having to choose between an unnecessarily large, exorbitant, nuclear weapons stockpile, and cleanup that would protect the environment and water resources for future generations. Expanded nuclear weapons research and production, which will cause yet more contamination, is winning.

Two recently released government reports make clear the stark inequality between the so-called modernization program to upgrade and indefinitely preserve U.S. nuclear forces (in large part for a new Cold War with Russia), and the nation-wide program to clean up the radioactive and toxic contamination from the first Cold War. The Obama Administration launched a trillion dollar nuclear weapons “modernization” program, which President Trump may expand. In contrast, cleanup of the first Cold War mess has been cut from a high of $8.5 billion in 2003 to $5.25 billion in 2016, even though comprehensive cleanup would produce far more jobs than nuclear weapons programs.

With respect to cleanup, last week the Congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its bi-annual High-Risk Series, which added “Environmental Liabilities” to its list of federal programs and operations that are particularly susceptible to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. Environmental liabilities are expressed as the estimated taxpayers’ cost of necessary future cleanup.

The Department of Energy is running the world’s largest cleanup program addressing the massive contamination caused by Cold War nuclear weapons research and production. But that national program is plagued by inefficiencies, mismanagement, cost overruns and excessive contractor profits.

According to GAO, since 1989 DOE’s Office of Environmental Management has spent over $164 billion on cleanup. Nevertheless, “Despite billions spent on environmental cleanup, DOE’s environmental liability has roughly doubled from a low of $176 billion in fiscal year 1997 to the fiscal year 2016 estimate of $372 billion.”

Therefore, from a cost perspective, cleanup is going backwards fast. Moreover, that $372 billion won’t be anywhere near the total cost of comprehensive, genuine cleanup because not all contamination is yet known. Furthermore, DOE explicitly plans to “cap and cover” much of its existing buried radioactive and toxic wastes, creating de facto permanent nuclear waste dumps while declaring them cleaned up according to regulations.

In contrast, funding is rapidly rising for revamped nuclear weapons and the missiles, submarines and bombers to deliver these most formidable weapons of mass destruction. Underpinning this astronomical expense is the fact that instead of maintaining just the few hundred warheads needed for the publicly claimed policy of “deterrence,” thousands of warheads are being refurbished and kept to fight a potential nuclear war. This is the little known but explicit policy of the U.S. government. As a top-level 2013 Defense Department policy document put it, “The new guidance [in Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review] requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a “counter-value’ or “minimum deterrence” strategy.”

President Reagan said long ago that nobody can win a nuclear war. Thousands of nuclear weapons are certainly not needed to deter emerging nuclear threats such as North Korea or potential nuclear terrorism. In addition, there are increasing hints (for example, by the Defense Department’s Defense Science Board) that the U.S. may develop and produce more precise low-yield nuclear weapons that are arguably more usable, and even possibly return to full-scale testing.

Expanded U.S. nuclear capabilities under the rubric of “modernization” involves the wholesale rebuilding of DOE’s nuclear weapons production complex; a perpetual cycle of Life Extension Programs that refurbish existing nuclear weapons while giving them new military capabilities; and completely new ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, heavy bombers and submarines to deliver the rebuilt nuclear weapons.

Not surprisingly, that’s going to cost American taxpayers more than previously thought. Last week the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its updated study Projected Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2026. It estimated that “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear forces will cost $400 billion during 2017 to 2026. This is 15% higher than a CBO estimate two years ago of $348 billion for the 10-year period of 2015 to 2024.

Moreover, in its earlier report CBO asserted that the next two decades will cost even more. Therefore, modernization will exceed the one trillion dollars over 30 years that is often cited now. And that figure could go much higher yet should Trump accelerate modernization, which he implied when he tweeted the U.S. “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability…”

Common to both its nuclear weapons and cleanup programs, DOE has the singular distinction of having its contract management designated as high risk by GAO for 26 consecutive years. This is because the Department’s track record of inadequate management and oversight of contractors, who comprise 95% of all nuclear weapons complex employees, has left DOE vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse. The list of busted projects is overwhelming, while the usual nuclear weapons contractors are typically not held accountable (for example, Bechtel’s Waste Treatment Plant at Hanford or Babcock and Wilcox’s half-billion dollar design mistake for Y-12’s proposed Uranium Processing Facility).

To illustrate this nation-wide problem locally, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), run by Bechtel and the University of California, recently signed a new 2016 Consent Order governing cleanup with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), which has coddled the nuclear weapons industry under Gov. Martinez. This new agreement pushes completion of Lab cleanup out to 2040, while creating loopholes where DOE can get out of cleanup by simply claiming that it is too difficult or costly. As a result, DOE has cut the Lab cleanup budget to around $188M per year, in contrast to a high of $225 million in 2014, or the $250 million per year that NMED has said in the past is necessary.

To add insult to injury, LANL’s estimated 3-4 billion dollar environmental liability assumes that nearly 200,000 cubic meters of radioactive and hazardous wastes are left behind forever in unlined dumps, protected only by “cap and cover” and thereby “cleaned up” according to regulations. But this, of course, is false cleanup. As a 2005 LANL hydrogeological report put it, “Future contamination at additional locations [in regional groundwater] is expected over a period of decades to centuries as more of the contaminant inventory reaches the water table.”

But nuclear weapon research and production at LANL, which threatens precious water resources, is not only thriving, but is expanding. Currently, up to $6 billion is planned to be spent on upgrading existing plutonium facilities and building new ones so that production can be expanded to 50-80 plutonium pits per year by 2028 (pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons). Ironically, expanded pit production is for exorbitant “Interoperable Warheads” for both intercontinental ballistic missiles and sub-launched missiles that the nuclear weapons labs are pushing but the Navy doesn’t want. Moreover, the planned changes to the existing, extensively tested nuclear stockpile are so radical that they could undermine confidence in performance reliability, possibly prompting a return to full scale testing.

Scott Kovac, Research Director at Nuclear Watch NM, commented, “Ten years from now, after taxpayers spend another $50 billion on cleanup, DOE’s environmental liability estimate will probably still be more than $400 billion. Meanwhile the US will have spent the same amount on expanded nuclear weapons production that will cause yet more contamination. That money should instead be used to get cleanup done once and for all, giving American taxpayers the real national security of a clean environment and safe drinking water.”

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Executive Director, observed, “Over the next few decades the window will close for comprehensive, genuine cleanup. Unfortunately, our children and grandchildren will instead be saddled with the ongoing financial and environmental debts of never-ending improvements to nuclear weapons that keep a privileged elite rich. As citizens we need deep and meaningful contractor reform and stronger federal oversight. The directors of the nuclear weapons labs should be stripped of their two-hatted role as the presidents of the for-profit limited liability corporations that run the labs, which are built-in conflicts-of-interest. Then perhaps we would begin to see jobs-creating cleanup programs taking precedence over unneeded, exorbitant nuclear weapons programs that threaten global security and local environments.”

###

GAO High-Risk Series 2017 is available at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-317

Specific DOE cleanup cost numbers are at http://gao.gov/highrisk/us_government_environmental_liability/why_did_study#t=1

Projected Costs Of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 To 2026 February 2017 is available at https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/reports/52401-nuclearcosts.pdf

The quote on top-level counterforce nuclear weapons doctrine is from:

Report on Nuclear Implementation Strategy of the United States Specified in Section 491 of 10. U.S.C., Department of Defense, June 2013, page 4 (quotation marks in the original) http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/policy/dod/us-nuclear-employment-strategy.pdf

For possible more usable nuclear weapons and a return to full-scale testing, see Seven Defense Priorities for the New Administration, Defense Science Board, December 2016, http://www.acq.osd.mil/dsb/reports/Seven_Defense_Priorities.pdf
The quote on more expected groundwater contamination is from LANL’s Hydrogeologic Studies of the Pajarito Plateau: A Synthesis of Hydrogeologic Workplan Activities (1998–2004), ER2005-0679 December 2005, Page 5-15, http://www.worldcat.org/title/los-alamos-national-laboratorys-hydrogeologic-studies-of-the-pajarito-plateau-a-synthesis-of-hydrogeologic-workplan-activities-1998-2004/oclc/316318363

Watchdogs Assail Revolving Door Between New Mexico Environment Department and Polluters

Nuclear Watch NM Press Release

For immediate release: January 17, 2017

Contact: Jay Coghlan, 505.989.7342, c. 505.470.3154, jay[at]nukewatch.org

 

Watchdogs Assail Revolving Door

Between New Mexico Environment Department and Polluters;

Gov. Martinez Fails to Protect State Budget and Environment

Santa Fe, NM – As the annual state legislative session begins, New Mexico is faced with a ~$70 million budget deficit, which must be balanced as per the state’s constitution, while revenues are projected to continue falling. To remedy this, Gov. Martinez plans to divert $120 million from public school reserves, take ~$12.5 million out of state employee retirement accounts, make teachers and state workers pay more into their retirement accounts (they are already among the lowest paid in the country), and extend 5.5% cuts for most state agencies while cutting yet more from the legislature and higher education. Instead, the state’s budget deficit could have been prevented had the New Mexico Environment Department aggressively fined polluters. But unfortunately there is a strong revolving door between NMED and the polluters it is suppose to regulate.

In her 2012 State of the State speech Gov. Martinez said, “My appointees are barred from lobbying state government for 2 years after serving in my administration.” Yet in August 2016 the Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), Mr. Ryan Flynn, resigned to become the Executive Director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, whose main purpose is to lobby on behalf of the oil and gas industry against environmental regulations. Before joining NMED, Mr. Flynn worked for a law firm that advertises that “Our representation of oil and gas producers, mid-stream entities, and natural gas pipelines has been a mainstay of Modrall Sperling’s natural resources practice since the early days of the firm.” Modrall Sperling lawyers were very active in the NM Oil and Gas Association’s opposition to the so-called “pit rule” that sought to prevent oil and gas drilling mud waste from leaching into and contaminating groundwater. In June 2013 the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission, appointed by Gov. Martinez, eviscerated the pit rule.

Similarly, Martinez and Flynn promulgated new groundwater protection rules that for the first time in the country actually allows groundwater contamination if it doesn’t migrate past the footprint of the operating site. This is the so-called Copper Rule, drafted by the copper mining giant Freeport-McMoRan (which is also a Modrell Sperling law firm client).

On January 13, 2017 Kathryn Roberts, the head of NMED’s Resource Protection Division, announced that she was leaving the Environment Department to accept an unnamed job in Alamogordo. Before NMED she worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for four years as Group Leader for Regulatory Support and Performance (of “cleanup”). Upon information and belief, she will work as a public communications specialist for Longenecker and Associates, a Department of Energy (DOE) contractor that proposes to drill deep boreholes to test the disposal of high-level nuclear waste near Alamogordo.

This is part of the continuing targeting of New Mexico as the nation’s nuclear waste dump. Longenecker and Associates have participated in Sandia Labs studies of deep borehole high-level waste disposal. Of interest are some relatively recent new hires by Longenecker, including Don Cook, a longtime Sandia Labs scientist, past manager of the Atomic Weapons Establishment in the United Kingdom, and most recently the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs (i.e., nuclear weapons) at the National Nuclear Security Administration. As such, he was essentially the head of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including the Los Alamos and Sandia Labs.

Also new to Longenecker and Associates as Corporate Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer is Christine Gelles, former interim manager of the new DOE Environmental Management field office at Los Alamos. A Longenecker resume´ notes that Gelles “Led planning and initial regulatory interactions with New Mexico Environment Department negotiation of Los Alamos Consent Order.” Ms. Roberts would have been one of Gelles’ counterparts on the other side of the table as head of NMED’s Resource Protection Division.

An original 2005 Consent Order negotiated between NMED and DOE was meant to compel comprehensive cleanup at LANL and force the Energy Department to increase cleanup funding. The new Consent Order, likely negotiated at least in part between Gelles and Roberts, contains giant loopholes whereby DOE can get out of cleanup by simply claiming that is too difficult or too costly. In fact, since the new Consent Order went into effect in June 2016, DOE has announced that the cost of “Remaining Legacy Cleanup” of radioactive and toxic wastes from more than 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production at LANL will cost $2.9 to $3.8 billion through fiscal year 2035, averaging $153 million per year, which is ridiculously low. That cost estimate clearly assumes that the Lab’s major radioactive and toxic wastes dumps will not be cleaned up. Instead they will be “capped and covered,” leaving some 200,000 cubic yards of radioactive and toxic wastes at Area G, its largest waste dump, posing a permanent threat to groundwater. DOE’s cost estimate for future LANL cleanup assumes flat funding out to FY 2035, and notes how that cost is “Aligned to [the] 2016 Consent Order.” This is a distinct and very unfortunate break from the 2005 Consent Order.

Particularly galling is the fact that under Gov. Martinez and ex-Secretary Ryan Flynn the New Mexico Environment Department granted more than 150 milestone extensions to the 2005 Consent Order, and then turned around and said that the Consent Order wasn’t working. From a budget perspective, New Mexico could have collected more than $300 million in stipulated penalties, more than four times the state’s projected budget deficit, had NMED vigorously enforced the 2005 Consent Order.

[For more, see here]

All of this is part of a pattern where the Martinez Administration has coddled the nuclear weapons industry even as that industry is cutting cleanup funding and ramping up nuclear weapons production that caused the mess to begin with. Gov. Martinez and ex-NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn have touted what they call an historic $74 million settlement that New Mexico and DOE reached after a radioactive waste barrel that LANL improperly treated ruptured at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), contaminating 21 workers and closing down that multi-billion dollar facility for nearly three years. What was left unsaid is that DOE was already responsible for the supermajority of “Special Environmental Projects” that were agreed to in lieu of penalties and fines that could helped solved New Mexico’s budgets woes, even though state and federal policy on those projects both require that the regulatory agency collect a significant monetary penalty.

Not one penny went to New Mexico, while DOE was “obliged” to, for example, repave roads at WIPP and LANL that it uses to transport the radioactive bomb waste that it produces. To add insult to injury, NMED agreed to waive penalties for all future, unknown violations – no matter the severity or length – as long as there is corrective action of any sort at some undefined time. Also included in this give-away was an obligation by NMED to negotiate modifications to the 2005 Consent Order (now completed to New Mexico’s disadvantage), and to forego penalties that could have been assessed against DOE under it.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “It seems that the Environment Department under Gov. Martinez is in the business of protecting business against environmentalists. The legislature should hold their feet to the fire so that New Mexicans have a real environment department that protects our precious water resources and creates jobs doing so.”

# # #

 

Energy Dept Misrepresents Cost and Scope of Los Alamos Cleanup

New Mexican Politicians Should Not Be Misled

Energy Dept Misrepresents Cost and Scope of Los Alamos Cleanup

Santa Fe, NM – The Department of Energy (DOE) has released a 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary of proposed future cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  At the beginning of that document DOE declares that “An estimated 5,000 cubic meters of legacy waste remains, of which approximately 2,400 cm [cubic meters] is retrievably stored below ground”, a claim which was widely reported in New Mexican media.  From there DOE estimates that it will cost $2.9 to $3.8 billion to complete so-called cleanup around 2040.

The public was notified of the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate in a September 15 Santa Fe City press release, with the subtitle “Study Lays Out Timeline, Costs, and More, Answers Critical Questions with Honest Assessment.” Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is quoted, “This report represents the first and most comprehensive release of specific plans to complete the cleanup of legacy waste at LANL, and is a big step forward for the people in these communities who want to see a concrete commitment to making progress.” Mayor Gonzales went on to thank Senators Udall and Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan for their help in obtaining the report.

However, the DOE report is far from honest. It intentionally omits any mention of approximately 150,000 cubic meters of poorly characterized radioactive and toxic wastes just at Area G (LANL’s largest waste dump) alone, an amount of wastes 30 times larger than DOE acknowledges in the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate. In reality, DOE and LANL plan to not clean up Area G, instead installing an “engineered cover” and leaving the wastes permanently buried. This will create a permanent nuclear waste dump above the regional groundwater aquifer, three miles uphill from the Rio Grande. Radioactive and toxic wastes are buried directly in the ground without liners, and migration of plutonium has been detected 200 feet below Area G’s surface.

Santa Fe Mayor Gonzales is the Vice-Chair of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. The Coalition is comprised of elected official from eight cities, counties and pueblos surrounding LANL, and is overwhelmingly funded by DOE and Los Alamos County. The same Santa Fe City press release quotes the RCLC Executive Director, “The Lifecycle Baseline documentation provides our communities the necessary foundation to properly advocate on behalf of the best possible scenarios for cleaning up legacy nuclear waste at the Laboratory in the most time and cost-efficient manner. After years of requests for this document, we now have the tool that can get us to additional cleanup dollars to get the job done.”

However, the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary itself states that it is “based on realistic expectations of annual funding for the remaining work” (last page, unnumbered) and “annual funding is expected to remain constant throughout the duration of the cleanup mission” (p. 5). While annual funding for the Lab’s nuclear weapons programs has climbed to $1.5 billion, cleanup has fallen from a high of $225 million in FY 2014 to $189 million requested for FY 2017. Moreover, this trend of declining cleanup funding may be exacerbated by the planned trillion dollar “modernization” of U.S. nuclear forces, including research and production sites like LANL (which is slated to quadruple production of the plutonium pit triggers for nuclear weapons). Instead of being a tool for additional dollars for genuine, comprehensive cleanup, the 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary is a DOE ploy to avoid cleaning up more than 90% of all wastes at LANL.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Executive Director, commented, “Mayor Gonzales and the Regional Coalition are to be commended for getting any Lab cleanup plan at all out of the Department of Energy. But now they should take the next step and get the Department of Energy to quit being so chintzy with cleanup. Our elected officials should demand that DOE retract its false claim that there is only 5,000 cubic meters of waste left at LANL to clean up. Then our politicians should push hard for a genuine, comprehensive cleanup plan that permanently protects the environment and our precious water resources while creating hundreds of high paying jobs.”

# # #

The Department of Energy’s 2016 Lifecycle Cost Estimate Summary is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/LBC-Summary-Aug-2016.pdf

Estimated quantities of waste at Area G (in cubic yards) are from Table G3.41, MDA G Corrective Measures Evaluation, 2011, LANS, p. G-13. See excerpts at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/Area_G_Pit_Totals_from_CME_rev3_Sept-2011.pdf

The full MDA G Corrective Measures Evaluation (159 MB) is available at  http://permalink.lanl.gov/object/tr?what=info:lanl-repo/eprr/ERID-206324

Documentation of the plutonium detection 200 feet below the surface of Area G is at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/AGCME Plate_B-3_radionuclides_subsurface.pdf

 

Radioactive waste disposal practices at Los Alamos National Laboratory

DOE Secretly Funding Front Group to Help it Evade Nuclear Cleanup

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 31, 2016
Contact: Denise Duffield, 213-689-9170 <tel:213-689-9170>  office
Cindi Gortner 818-489-1226
Bonnie Klea 818-854-4825
Marie Mason  805-279-0356 

 

U.S. Department of Energy Secretly Funding Front Group to Help it Evade Nuclear Cleanup at Santa Susana Field Laboratory

Controversial grant made at the same time department reneged on financial commitment to national independently administered community fund


Community members living near the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory were outraged to learn that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has secretly been funding a front group that is lobbying for the breach of DOE’s cleanup agreement for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) – and that the agency’s request for secrecy may have been made to avoid attention from Senator Barbara Boxer, a longtime supporter of full cleanup.

SSFL is heavily contaminated with nuclear and chemical contamination resulting from decades of nuclear activities and rocket engine testing, In 2010, agreements (Administrative Orders on Consent or AOCs) were signed between the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and DOE and NASA to cleanup all detectable contamination at their respective portions of the property. The AOC was first proposed by former DOE Secretary Dr. Steven Chu and Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (DOE-EM) Dr. Inez Triay. Boeing, which owns most of the site, refused to sign the agreement and is pushing for a much weaker cleanup.

In 2011, under the Brown Administration, the DTSC’s commitment to full cleanup began to erode, and along with it, those of NASA and DOE. Over objections from community members   and elected officials , the DTSC replaced the longstanding public participation vehicle, the SSFL Work Group, with the SSFL Community Advisory Group (SSFL CAG). The CAG’s leadership is composed of individuals with ties to the parties responsible for the contamination at SSFL, and the group actively lobbies against the AOCs. One CAG flyer reads, “Why the AOC Cleanup at SSFL is Bad for Our Community” (here .) and states that the AOC will harm the environment and Native American artifacts, which are in fact protected by the AOC. The CAG also denies SSFL’s health impacts. One CAG member, a former SSFL official and current DOE contractor, maligned previous health studies so badly that their authors felt compelled to write an op-ed in the Ventura County Star in defense.

The public has been demanding to know for a long time how the CAG was funded, and neither the CAG nor  DTSC have disclosed that information. In December 2015   and in May 2016 , cleanup advocates complained to the DTSC Independent Review Panel (IRP), established by the California legislature to investigate DTSC’s many failings, about the CAG’s anonymous funding and conduct. No action was taken on the matter.

The complaints were instigated by the CAG’s announcement, at it’s August 19, 2015 meeting, that it would be receiving a $32,000 – $35,000 donation from a donor who wished to be anonymous. A video from the meeting shows CAG member Alec Uzemeck claiming the donation had “no strings,” and that it was anonymous “Because everything we do is politically charged. We have people out there who make phone calls. And if you’re the executive of a corporation and you get a call from Barbara Boxer, I’m quite sure that that’s going to have an impact on it. But, we don’t want that. We wanna have the money in hand when we announce who the donors are.” (See video here .) The CAG’s August 2015 minutes (here ) make it clear that the anonymity was at the donor’s request, and so secret that the CAG leadership would not reveal the donor to the full CAG membership, causing one CAG member to resign.

At it’s August 17, 2016 meeting, a full year after having announced its anonymous gift, the CAG revealed that the donor was the Department of Energy. Uzemeck said, “DOE will be coming out with a quarterly report, probably in two or three weeks. And it will have a list of grants on the last page. And DOE is the one that made the grant for us. They are the one who supplied the funding. So, the question’s been answered.” Uzemeck’s statement can be viewed here. The CAG’s tax returns   show that the organization received $38,600 in 2015.

The DOE refuses to answer questions about the arrangement, what the grant funds are expended on, explain why the funding was kept secret for a full year, or provide a copy of the grant application and contract. “For one of the Responsible Parties, DOE, to be funding a group that is trying to help DOE avoid its cleanup obligations, and asking for DOE’s identity as the source of the funds to be long kept secret, would be nothing short of scandalous.” said Denise Duffield, Associate Director of Physicians for Social Responsibiiity-Los Angeles in an August 30 email to Dr. Monica Regalbuto, Assistant Secretary for the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management.

Community members are also deeply troubled that DOE funded the CAG during the same month that it broke its commitment and revoked funding for the final year of a five-year commitment to the New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF)-administered Community Involvement Fund (CIF), which funds independent groups in impacted communities near contaminated DOE sites throughout the country. Reneging on its contract and failing to disperse a final $300,000 payment to NMCF caused over a dozen community groups to lose key funding.

“DOE broke its commitment to provide its funding for community groups near contaminated sites through an independent mechanism and hands-off procedures that assured DOE would not do precisely what it has now done—fund a front group to lobby on DOE’s behalf to get out of its cleanup obligations.” said Duffield in the email to Regalbuto.

Community members are dismayed and angered by the revelations. Simi Valley resident Marie Mason, who has led community cleanup efforts for 28 years, said, “I find it more than shocking that the DOE would fund this group and ask to conceal they are the funding source and especially to not have Senator Boxer find out. I am more than disgusted and filled with sadness. DOE and DTSC are part of the problem with too many close ties to the polluters and total disregard for the communities they are supposed to protect.”

Bonnie Klea, a former worker at SSFL and cancer survivor, said, “I am appalled that DOE funded the CAG so that members can go out and lobby against the AOC and deny the cancer risks from the past, present and future exposure from the site. This is disgusting. ” Klea and others note that the CAG does not represent the views of the community, which overwhelming supports the AOCs. All but 14 of the 3,700 comments submitted on the AOC were in favor of the agreement, and over 1,600 signed a petition last year urging that the cleanup agreements be upheld. (See petition here .)

Duffield’s email to DOE, sent also to local and state officials, implored the agency for answers and noted that no local elected officials had been consulted with or informed of the funding. “The community has the right to know about the intent, character, and tactics of the agency that holds their potential health and well being in its hands. And elected officials, many of whom have been lobbied by the CAG to weaken the cleanup, must be informed about financial contributions that DOE is making to this group to influence them and help it break out the cleanup agreements.”

# # #

The Rocketdyne Cleanup Coalition, or RCC, is a community-based alliance dedicated to the cleanup of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL), commonly known as Rocketdyne.



From: Denise Duffield <dduffield(at)psr-la.org
Date: Mon, Aug 29, 2016 at 12:57 PM
Subject: Time-Sensitive Request re: DOE CAG funding and the SSFL AOC cleanup agreement
To:
monica.regalbuto@em.doe.gov

Dear Assistant Energy Secretary for Environmental Management Regalbuto:

I was shocked to learn recently that DOE has been funding a front group that is lobbying for the breach of DOE’s cleanup agreement for the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) – and that DOE had apparently requested that the funding be kept secret so that Senator Barbara Boxer wouldn’t learn of it. I write today to both apprise you of this troubling situation and to request further information and documents related to DOE’s decision to fund the SSFL CAG.

The SSFL CAG is a small but highly controversial group that is lobbying against the cleanup agreement (Administrative Order on Consent, or AOC) for SSFL signed by both DOE and the state regulatory agency overseeing the cleanup, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). For example, one CAG flyer reads, “Why the AOC Cleanup at SSFL is Bad for Our Community” (here.) “The AOC Cleanup: More Harm Than Good?” reads another (here.) The CAG routinely propagates false information about SSFL’s contamination, health impacts, and cleanup. A CAG – Community Advisory Group – should represent the community. However, the SSFL CAG does not even remotely represent the community, which understands that SSFL is contaminated with dangerous radionuclides and chemicals and needs to be fully remediated per the current DOE cleanup agreement. The CAG is a classic “astroturf” (i.e., fake grassroots) group dominated by people with ties to the parties responsible for the contamination at SSFL.

The public has been demanding to know for a long time how the CAG was funded and how it spends those funds. The CAG has refused to disclose that information, which is troubling for an entity that claims to be public. The community has suspected that the money comes from one or more of the entities that polluted the site and that is trying to get out of its cleanup obligations, and that that is why the CAG wouldn’t disclose the funding source or sources. Now it appears that that is indeed the case. For one of the Responsible Parties, DOE, to be funding a group that is trying to help DOE avoid its cleanup obligations, and asking for DOE’s identity as the source of the funds to be long kept secret, would be nothing short of scandalous.

The DOE SSFL cleanup agreement (AOC) was proposed by former DOE Secretary Dr. Steven Chu and Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (DOE-EM), Dr. Inez Triay. It was signed by DOE and DTSC in December 2010. The AOC stipulates that Area IV and the Northern Buffer Zone at SSFL are to be cleaned up to background. In February 2014, at a meeting of the SSFL Work Group, DOE SSFL Project Director John Jones told the audience of community members, elected officials, and media that the DOE was committed to upholding the AOC agreement (see video here.)

Since then, the community has seen an erosion of DOE’s stated commitment, including a Public Scoping plan which included numerous options that would violate the AOC (such as keeping waste on site), accompanied by a report grossly exaggerating soil removal estimates (see statement by the Southern California Federation of Scientists here.) In addition, the AOC explicitly defines soils as including structures (see page five of AOC here), which are to be cleaned up to background and all wastes to go to licensed low level radioactive waste disposal sites, yet DOE is now taking the position that it can demolish nuclear structures at SSFL at will, using far less protective standards, and dispose of their radioactive wastes anywhere. The DOE has also apparently told the CAG that it is contemplating trying to modify the AOC to be required to perform much less cleanup than it had promised in order to save money (see CAG July 20, 2016 minutes here.)

And now, we have learned that the DOE has been funding the CAG. The DOE is abundantly aware that the CAG openly, actively, and vigorously works to break the AOC cleanup agreement that DOE signed. DOE’s funding of the SSFL CAG is therefore an alarming and direct assault on the AOC itself. It also makes clear that the CAG is an agent of one of the parties responsible for the pollution at the site and which is trying desperately to get out of its obligation to clean up all the radioactive and toxic mess that it made. The CAG regularly lobbies elected officials to try to persuade them to push to weaken the cleanup —an activity outside the scope of a regular community advisory group. It is very troubling for DOE, responsible for the contamination and sworn to uphold a cleanup agreement to clean it all up, to be secretly funding a group that lobbies elected officials to support DOE breaking its agreement.

We are also deeply disturbed by the secrecy surrounding DOE’s grant to the SSFL CAG. The CAG first announced that it was to receive $32,000 in funding at an August 2015 meeting, in which it stated that the donor wished to remain anonymous in order to avoid Senator Barbara Boxer, a longtime SSFL cleanup supporter, learning of the funding and taking action thereon. (See video of CAG meeting here.) Only now, a year later, near the end of Senator Boxer’s esteemed Senate career, has the CAG apparently been given permission to reveal that the identity of its funder is the DOE. It is outrageous and unconscionable for a government agency to make a financial contribution to any organization and request that the funding be kept secret, for any reason, let alone for the purpose of evading the attention of a United States Senator who would likely object to what it was doing. The CAG’s August 2015 minutes (here) make it clear that the anonymity, which lasted a full year, was at the donor’s request.

Further, the DOE funded the CAG during the same year that it broke its commitment and revoked funding for the final year of a five-year commitment to the New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF)-administered Community Involvement Fund (CIF), which funds independent groups in impacted communities near contaminated DOE sites throughout the country. The DOE’s agreement with NMCF states, “By utilizing a cooperative agreement with an independent entity to distribute grant funds to qualified organizations representing the interests of the public, DOE-EM will ensure that the program is not viewed as a surrogate for DOE’s own preferences, and that long-term DOE-EM decisions are based on input from individuals and/or groups who are most likely to be affected by those decisions.”

In other words, DOE was supposed to stay out of the grant selection process to assure that groups funded were independent of DOE. However, the DOE weighed in heavily against a re-application submitted by Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA) for the SSFL Work Group, the longstanding advisory group established a quarter of a century ago by the electeds and which represents the main mechanism for the community to learn about and provide feedback on the cleanup and hold the agencies accountable. In August 2013 we applied for and received a $23,000 CIF grant. We re-applied in August 2014, but learned that DOE was pressuring CIF to deny the grant, which violated its commitment to keep hands-off the selection process. To its credit, in November 2014, the NMCF awarded the second grant of $20,000 (and did not fund the SSFL CAG, which had also applied for the funding.)

Very shortly thereafter, the DOE reneged on the final $300,000 it had pledged to NMCF, impacting not just PSR-LA and the SSFL Work Group but over a dozen communities nationwide. NMCF sent a message to its grantees on March 16, 2015 stating, “Earlier this year, representatives of the Department of Energy (DOE) advised New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF) that the foundation would receive only partial funding for the CIF grant program in 2015.  Last month, we were informed that NMCF would only be funded a small portion of the overall budget request solely for administrative oversight of the current 2014-15 grant cycle, and no funding would be allocated to go towards new grant-making. Adding to our confusion and concern, the decision-making process associated with the 2015 CIF appropriation has not been clearly communicated, nor have we been given a clear indication of the reasons for the reduction in funding.”

We cannot say with certainty that DOE revoked funding to the NMCF due to its decision to fund the SSFL Work Group despite the inappropriate pressure by DOE. But, we must point this out as a strong possibility in light of the timing and DOE actions described herein. The CIF grant enabled the return of the trusted public participation vehicle, the SSFL Work Group, which attracted capacity crowds who were able to learn about the contamination that would be left on site if the cleanup agreements were not upheld. DOE had participated in the SSFL Work Group since its inception, but has now stopped attending virtually any public meeting where it could be held to account for its actions. Regardless of DOE’s motivation to abrogate its agreement with NMCF, it is very troubling that the DOE made this decision while simultaneously funding an organization that opposes a cleanup agreement that the DOE has been strongly signaling it wants to break. DOE broke its commitment to provide its funding for community groups near contaminated sites through an independent mechanism and hands-off procedures that assured DOE would not do precisely what it has now done—fund a front group to lobby on DOE’s behalf to get out of its cleanup obligations.

It is difficult to overstate just what is at stake for communities near SSFL right now. Decades of nuclear and aerospace activities at SSFL have left a legacy of dangerous nuclear and chemical contamination that continues to migrate from the site to offsite populations. Federal studies have shown an increase in cancers associated with proximity to the site. In 2010, after decades of attempts to achieve full cleanup, the historic AOCs were signed. As a result, $41.5 million dollars were spent for a US EPA survey that identified background radiation and found nearly 500 samples, in just one area of SSFL, that were above background, in some cases dramatically so. The community eagerly anticipated full cleanup, which the AOC stipulated would be complete by 2017.

We are now just months away from 2017, but cleanup has yet to begin. Indeed, DOE’s draft EIS – which a court ordered a decade ago and was due to be published years ago – is not yet released. Community members have feared that DOE’s EIS would be a full-bodied attack on the very cleanup agreement DOE had sworn to carry out, and wondered if the EIS was being delayed so as to not come out until after Senator Boxer leaves office and can no longer take action to insist DOE live up to the promises made. This suspicion has only increased given the timing of the announcement that DOE is the CAG’s secret benefactor, and that the reason for the secrecy was to avoid attention from Boxer. The community is appalled and angry, and deserves to know the full details of DOE’s arrangement with the SSFL CAG.

Below please find background information and documentation on these matters, followed by a series of pressing questions. I request that DOE provide answers to the questions, as well as a copy of the SSFL CAG Foundation’s grant application/proposal to the DOE and its DOE grant/contract, as well as any grant report, immediately. If there has been more than one grant to the CAG, provide information about each. The community has the right to know about the intent, character, and tactics of the agency that holds their potential health and well being in its hands. And elected officials, many of whom have been lobbied by the CAG to weaken the cleanup, must be informed about financial contributions that DOE is making to this group to influence them and help it break out the cleanup agreements. DOE funding a front group to lobby elected officials to push them to support DOE breaking its cleanup agreements would be an outrage.

Background and Documentation

The SSFL CAG was formed in 2012 over the objections of longtime community members and local elected officials. (See community petition here and letter from elected officials Julia Brownley, Fran Pavley, Shelia Kuehl, Linda Parks, and Greig Smith opposing formation of the CAG and supporting instead the longstanding SSFL Work Group here.) The CAG is widely perceived as a front group for the polluters that does not represent the interests of the community, because it is opposes the cleanup agreements that are overwhelming supported by the community. All but a handful of the 3,700 comments submitted on the AOC were in favor of the agreement. Last year over 1,600 signed a petition urging that the cleanup agreements be upheld. (See petition here.) Yet every member of the CAG opposes the AOCs, despite the requirements that a CAG represent the range of community perspectives.

The CAG’s leadership is composed of individuals who are former employees or contractors of the parties responsible for cleaning up the site (Boeing, DOE, and NASA.). Alec Uzemeck worked for Boeing’s predecessor, North American Aviation, at its then-headquarters in Downey for which the Santa Susana site was the field lab. Brian Sujata was Boeing’s project manager for SSFL cleanup, while Boeing was DOE’s contractor for the cleanup. Ross Berman worked for both Tetra Tech and CH2M Hill, contractors for the responsible parties. And Abe Weizberg was an official at SSFL, in charge of safety for the SNAP reactors, one of which experienced 80% fuel damage in an accident. Weitzberg remains a consultant for the DOE.

Since its founding, the SSFL CAG has undertaken a multi-faceted campaign aimed at undoing the SSFL cleanup agreements. This includes exaggerating cleanup soil volumes and truck traffic and claiming that the cleanup will harm the site’s natural environment and Native American artifacts (which are in fact protected by the AOC.) The CAG also attempts to minimize the contamination at SSFL and health impacts. Last year,  CAG member and former SSFL official Weitzberg launched an effort to have the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) refute prior health studies and weigh in against the cleanup. In the process, he maligned the authors of those studies, who expressed their objections in an article published in the Ventura County Star here. The CAG has also made a habit of regularly and publicly disparaging longtime community members and cleanup advocates. Whereas meetings of the longstanding SSFL Work Group are packed with concerned members of the public and representatives of elected officials, very few attend CAG meetings. The last meeting had only half a dozen CAG members and a roughly equal number of the public, most of whom were critics of the CAG’s biases and actions.

On August 19, 2015, CAG member Alec Uzemeck announced at an SSFL CAG meeting that the CAG would be receiving a $32,000 – $35,000 donation from a donor who wished to be anonymous. The minutes from the meeting (which can be viewed here) state that the CAG established a non-profit foundation, “…in response to the gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.” The CAG leadership was so secretive about the donor’s identify that it refused to inform the full CAG membership, causing one CAG member to resign, as reflected in the minutes, ” As a result of the fact that the donor is anonymous, Elizabeth Harris has resigned from the CAG…”  At the meeting, Uzemeck repeatedly said that the donation had “no strings,” and of the gift said, “Why is it anonymous at this point? Because everything we do is politically charged. We have people out there who make phone calls. And if you’re the executive of a corporation and you get a call from Barbara Boxer, I’m quite sure that that’s going to have an impact on it. But, we don’t want that.” (See video here.)

In December 2015 and in May 2016, cleanup advocates and community members complained to the DTSC Independent Review Panel (IRP), established by the California legislature to investigate DTSC’s many failings, about the CAG’s anonymous funding and conduct (see paragraphs 4 -6 on page 2 of the IRP’s May 12, 2016 minutes here.)

Finally, at an SSFL CAG meeting on August 17, 2016, nearly a year after announcing the funding and the donor’s request that its identity be kept secret so as to keep Senator Boxer in the dark, Uzemeck announced, “DOE will be coming out with a quarterly report, probably in two or three weeks. And it will have a list of grants on the last page. And DOE is the one that made the grant for us. They are the one who supplied the funding. So, the question’s been answered.” A recording of Uzemeck’s statement can be viewed here.

The SSFL CAG’s tax returns, which can be viewed here, show that the organization received $38,600 in 2015.

Questions for the Department of Energy

1. Did DOE, as reflected in the CAG’s minutes, suggest to the SSFL CAG to form a non-profit foundation so that it could provide funding to the CAG?

2. When did DOE begin discussing funding the CAG? When did it actually make the contribution, and what was the amount of the gift?  Has there been more than one?

3. What is the stated purpose of the grant? What will/have grant funds be expended on?

4. Under what category of funding was this grant made? Was it made from the DOE Office of Environmental Management, the same office that reneged on its commitment to NMCF?

5. CAG member Alec Uzemeck repeatedly stated that the grant had “no strings.” Does the DOE grant have any restrictions? Is lobbying prohibited? Is the CAG required to submit a report on its activities? Will it be invited to reapply for funding again this year?

6. Why did DOE request that its gift to the CAG be anonymous? Did the DOE tell the CAG, as expressed by Alec Uzemeck, verbally or in writing, that it wanted its gift secret, at least for a time, because it wanted to avoid repercussions from Senator Barbara Boxer?

7. How does the DOE reconcile public statements that it will uphold the AOC at the same time that it is funding a group that overtly works to destroy the AOC?

8. Did DOE’s animosity toward the Santa Susana cleanup agreement, and its displeasure at CIF funding PSR-LA and the SSFL Work Group, cause it to cancel the last year of its funding to NMCF, and thus cost over a dozen community groups throughout the United States to lose funding?

9.  Did DOE consult with elected officials historically concerned about SSFL cleanup as to whether the grant should be given to the CAG and whether it was a legitimate group representing the community?  Why did DOE ignore the opposition to the CAG expressed, in writing, by the electeds?

10.  Why did DOE not publicly solicit grant applications instead of secretly arranging to give the money to the CAG?  Why did DOE not solicit a grant application from the longstanding SSFL Work Group established by the electeds, which supports the cleanup agreements DOE is supposedly sworn to uphold?  Given that very few people attend CAG meetings, and the Work Group meetings are often standing-room only, why did DOE secretly fund the CAG, without a competitive grant application process, and not solicit an application from SSFL the Work Group?

Again, in addition, I request that DOE provide a copy of the SSFL CAG Foundation’s grant application or proposal to DOE, as well as the DOE-SSFL CAG grant contract or agreement, immediately.

Sincerely,

Denise Duffield
Coordinator, SSFL Work Group
and
Associate Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles

cc:  Senator Barbara Boxer
Congresswoman Julia Brownley
California Senator Fran Pavley
LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl
Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks
LA City Councilmember Mitch Englander
DTSC Director Barbara Lee
DTSC IRP Chair Gideon Kracov

 

Nuclear Watch NM Amends LANL Cleanup Lawsuit – Claims New Consent Order To Be Invalid

Nuclear Watch NM Amends LANL Cleanup Lawsuit – Claims New Consent Order To Be Invalid

Nuclear Watch New Mexico has amended its federal lawsuit against the Department of Energy (DOE) and Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) that alleges twelve violations of a 2005 Consent Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Those violations could result in potential penalties of more than $300 million dollars that would go to the state, if only the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) were to enforce them.

Nuclear Watch now asks the court to declare the new 2016 Consent Order to be invalid because the requirement for the opportunity of a public hearing was not met.

NMED intervened in the case on June 23, 2016. The next day, NMED and DOE signed the 2016 Consent Order after a 60-day comment period, during which over 40 citizens, nonprofit organizations, public officials, and two Pueblos provided comments. Lack of enforceability and lack of concrete long-term schedules were common major foci of the comments. Despite that, “No change” without any further explanation was NMED’s overwhelming response to specific public comments as the two agencies moved from the draft to final Consent Order.

The finalized new Consent Order surrenders enforceability by creating a giant loophole where DOE and LANL can avoid cleanup by claiming that it is either too expensive or impractical. This is clearly the opposite of what is needed, when nuclear weapons research and production programs that caused the mess to begin with are receiving increased taxpayer funding, while cleanup programs are being cut.

In addition, NMED’s new Consent Order explicitly absolves DOE and LANS of past violations. In response, Nuclear Watch has added to its lawsuit this request for declaratory judgment by the court that DOE and NMED violated the public’s right for the opportunity of a formal hearing, explicitly required by the 2005 Consent Order.

Scott Kovac, NukeWatch Research Director, noted, “We will not let the public’s right for cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab be papered over by DOE and NMED. Both agencies agreed to all parts of the 2005 Consent Order, which included rigorous public participation requirements and a detailed the cleanup schedule, including a final compliance date. We will continue to push for the public to have a true voice in these important matters. ”

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center and Attorney John E. Stroud are representing NukeWatch in this legal action to enforce timely cleanup at LANL.

###

 

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s 1st amended complaint is available here

NMED’s Final Consent Order and the “response” to comments matrix are available here

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s original lawsuit complaint is available here

Our May 5, 2016 second notice of intent to sue (which is a good summary of our complaint) is available here

Our January 20, 2016 notice of intent to sue is available here

 

 

 

NM Environment Dept Finalizes Consent Order on Los Alamos Lab Cleanup Surrenders Enforcement to Nuclear Weaponeers

NM Environment Dept Finalizes Consent Order

on Los Alamos Lab Cleanup

Surrenders Enforcement to Nuclear Weaponeers

 

Santa Fe, NM – In a classic move to avoid publicity, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) announced late Friday afternoon June 24 that it had finalized a new “Consent Order” to replace a 2005 Order governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Environment Department’s brief press release headlined “Agreement Focuses on Cleanup & Supporting Stronger Federal Funding Requests.” This is doublespeak, as the new Consent Order is a giveaway to the Department of Energy and the Lab, surrendering the strong enforceability of the old Consent Order. The new Order is also clearly the opposite of the old Consent Order, whose underlying intent was to make DOE and LANL get more money from Congress for accelerated cleanup. In contrast, the new Consent Order allows them to get out of future cleanup by simply claiming that it’s too expensive or impractical to clean up.

The nuclear weaponeers are now openly talking about the “The Second Nuclear Age” before cleaning up form the first nuclear age. They are actively seeking to expand nuclear weapons production that caused the widespread contamination to begin with, particularly plutonium pit production at LANL.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “The nuclear weaponeers plan to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years completely rebuilding U.S. nuclear forces. Meanwhile, cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab, the birthplace of nuclear weapons, continues to be delayed, delayed, delayed. Real cleanup would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our water and environment while creating hundreds of high paying jobs. But yet the Environment Department fails New Mexicans by failing to enforce cleanup at Los Alamos.”

When NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn announced a draft new Consent Order on March 30, he claimed that the old Consent Order did not work. Nuclear Watch agrees, but that’s because Secretary Flynn granted more than 150 compliance milestone extensions at the Lab’s request, effectively eviscerating the old Consent Order. While finalizing the new Consent Order NMED ignored the explicit public participation requirements of the old Order, which among other things requires a public hearing on major modifications. Instead, NMED rammed through the final Consent Order, largely brushing aside the formal comments of some 40 concerned citizens and the Santa Clara Pueblo.

LANL is key to the trillion dollar rebuilding of nuclear forces as the premier nuclear weapons design lab and the nation’s sole production site for plutonium pit triggers, the most critical nuclear weapons components. Funding for Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons programs is nearly double historic Cold War averages, with around $1.5 billion spent annually at LANL alone. In contrast, funding for Lab cleanup has been cut to $189 million for FY 2017 (down from $225 million in FY 2014), with only approximately a third going to actual cleanup (one-third goes to pensions and another third to safeguard improperly treated radioactive waste barrels, one of which ruptured and closed the multi-billion dollar Waste Isolation Pilot Plant).

The original 2005 Consent Order required DOE and LANL to investigate, characterize, and clean up hazardous and mixed radioactive contaminants from 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production. It also stipulated a detailed compliance schedule that the Lab was required to meet. Ironically, the last milestone, due December 6, 2015, required a report from LANL on how it successfully cleaned up Area G, its largest waste dump. However, real cleanup remains decades away, if ever. Instead, the Lab plans to “cap and cover” Area G, thereby creating a permanent nuclear waste dump in unlined pits and shafts, with an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of toxic and radioactive wastes buried above the regional groundwater aquifer, four miles uphill from the Rio Grande.

 

A few of the serious deficiencies of the new Consent Order are:

[Quotes are from the new Consent Order followed by page numbers]

• “The Parties agree that DOE’s project’s plans and tools will be used to identify proposed milestones and targets.” P. 28. “DOE shall define the use of screening levels and cleanup levels at a site…”  P. 32. This puts the Department of Energy in the driver’s seat, not the New Mexico Environment Department.

• “DOE shall update the milestones and targets in Appendix B on an annual basis, accounting for such factors as… changes in anticipated funding levels.” P. 29. Therefore the new Consent Order will be held hostage to DOE’s budget, which recently cut LANL’s cleanup funding.

• “… [DOE and NMED] shall meet to discuss the appropriation and any necessary revision to the forecast, e.g. DOE did not receive adequate appropriations from Congress…” P. 30. Again, the new Consent Order and therefore cleanup at LANL will be held hostage to DOE funding, when DOE’s own track record makes clear that its priority is expanded nuclear weapons production paid for in part by cutting cleanup and nonproliferation programs.

• “If attainment of established cleanup objectives is demonstrated to be technically infeasible, DOE may perform risk-based alternative cleanup objectives…” P. 34. DOE can opt out because of “impracticability” or cost of cleanup. P. 35. This creates giant loopholes that threaten comprehensive cleanup at LANL.

• The new draft Consent Order explicitly states that public participation requirements do NOT apply to future modifications of the Order. P. 25. This is the opposite of what the original Consent Order required, which made a point of incorporating the public process requirements of federal environmental law. Nuclear Watch New Mexico maintains that full public participation requirements apply to the new Consent Order as well, including its very formulation as a major modification of the old Consent Order. That full public participation process requires a public hearing if there are unresolved issues, which NMED has rejected, a position that may be of questionable legality.

 

On May 12, 2016, Nuclear Watch New Mexico filed a lawsuit against LANL and DOE for failing to meet compliance milestones in the old Consent Order. These violations incur around $300 million dollars in potential penalties, which NMED shows no sign of enforcing. To the contrary, NMED has filed a motion to intervene against Nuclear Watch New Mexico in its lawsuit, raising the question of whose side the Environment Department is on, the environment or the polluter (in this case a for-profit nuclear weapons lab)?

Moreover, when Nuclear Watch NM filed a notice of intent to sue on January 21, NMED Secretary Flynn sought to intimidate our lawyers by declaring “If a suit is filed, and the Environment Department becomes involved, we would insist on collecting any and all labor and legal costs from the (New Mexico Environmental Law Center) to reimburse New Mexico’s taxpayers for the costs resulting from this groundless and frivolous action.”

Far from being a frivolous action, Nuclear Watch and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center seek to compel full and genuine environmental restoration at the Los Alamos Lab, which the new Consent Order blocks by giving the nuclear weaponeers giant loopholes to avoid cleanup.

 

#  #  #

NMED’s June 24 press release and the new Consent Order are available here

Public comment on the draft Consent Order (including Nuclear Watch NM and Santa Clara Pueblo) is available here

Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s lawsuit complaint, filed May 12, 2016, is available here

  • Our complaint alleged twelve counts of milestone compliance violations where NMED did not grant extensions. At that time we calculated 7,853 total days of noncompliance at $37,500.00 per day, equal to $294,487,500, with the clock still ticking.

Our May 5, 2016 second notice of intent to sue (which is a good summary of our complaint) is available here

Our January 20, 2016 notice of intent to sue is available here

NMED Secretary Flynn’s quote is from “Nuclear Watch to sue over LANL cleanup problems”, Mark Oswald, Albuquerque Journal, January 21, 2016, is here.

 

Underground Pits and shafts at Area G
LANL Area G Underground Disposal Pits and Shafts

Sign the Petition – No Loopholes, No Excuses – Full Cleanup at Los Alamos!

Dear Friends,

Thanks to those who made it to the meeting last night!

 

NukeWatch has a new petition –

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) has issued a proposed new “Consent Order” governing cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of nuclear weapons.

We demand NMED close the giant loophole in the proposed Consent Order that would allow Los Alamos Lab and DOE to get out of cleanup by simply saying that they don’t have enough money.

And we demand NMED hold a public hearing on the proposed Consent Order, given the intense public interest in cleaning up the Lab.

For more info –

https://www.change.org/p/kathryn-roberts-no-excuses-no-loopholes-full-cleanup-at-los-alamos-lab

AND WE HAVE EXPANDED OUR SAMPLE COMMENTS FOR YOU TO USE AS YOU SEE FIT

Please let your voice be heard and turn in public comments.

Copy the sample comments below and paste into an email.

Please modify as you see fit, then email to the address below.

If you don’t mind, please cc: us at: info(at)nukewatch(dot)org

 

[date]

 

Ms. Kathryn Roberts

New Mexico Environment Department

Post Office Box 5469

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502

 

Via email to kathryn.roberts@state.nm.us 

 

Dear Ms. Roberts,

I urge the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to abandon the proposed 2016 Compliance Order on Consent, or Consent Order, for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), released for public comment on March 30, 2016.  It creates serious problems and represents a giant step backwards in achieving the goal of genuine cleanup of the Laboratory.

The Environment Department should keep the existing Consent Order that went into effect March 1, 2005, while modifying and updating a cleanup schedule that includes a realistic final compliance date.  I also formally request that NMED provide the opportunity for a public hearing on the revised cleanup schedule and new completion date, in accordance with the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act and the 2005 Consent Order.

 

GENERAL COMMENTS

The opportunity for a public hearing must be provided

  • Any extension of a final compliance date must be treated as a Class 3 permit modification to the 2005 Consent Order and therefore requires a 60-day public comment period.
  • Any extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order can be implemented only after the opportunity for public comment and a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination of witnesses.
  • The Environment Department is legally required to follow these public participation requirements that explicitly incorporated into the 2005 Consent Order.

Withdraw the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order 

  • The proposed draft represents a big step backwards in achieving the goal of genuine cleanup of the Laboratory.
  • The Environment Department should keep the current 2005 Consent Order and revise the Section XII cleanup schedule and final compliance date.
  • I request that the Environment Department withdraw the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order.

The public deserves the opportunity to comment on all following drafts 

  • It seems likely that a later draft – after the Lab’s and public comments are incorporated into a revised draft – and after closed-door negotiations between the Environment Department and the Laboratory – could be substantially different from the current draft.
  • I request that the public have the opportunity to review and comment on any further drafts of a revised proposed 2016 Consent Order.

Public participation provisions in the existing 2005 Consent Order must be incorporated into the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order

  • The proposed draft 2016 Consent Order explicitly limits public participation requirements incorporated into the existing 2005 Consent Order.
  • I request that all notices, milestones, targets, annual negotiations, and modifications require public review and comment, and the opportunity for a public hearing.

The current state of cleanup must be updated and next steps scheduled

  • Work under the existing 2005 Consent Order needs to be subject to public review.  In 2005 DOE agreed to complete cleanup under the Consent Order by December 6, 2015, which did not happen.  In order for the public to understand where the work under the existing Consent Order stands, LANL should be required to provide a current, publicly available list of the status of all cleanup projects under the 2005 Consent Order.
  • Further, I request that next steps for cleanup at every site listed in the 2005 Consent Order be documented in detail and given a scheduled completion date, or alternatively verified as already completed.
  • All documents submitted under the 2005 Consent Order must be incorporated into any revised Consent Order.

All documents must be made public as required in the 2005 Consent Order

  • The State and the Lab must make all communications, documents, submittals, approvals, notices of deficiencies and denials under any revised Consent Order readily and electronically available to the public.
  • The State and the Lab must notify individuals by e-mail of all submittals, as required in the 2005 Consent Order.

The Environment Department must respond in writing to all public comments

  • I request that the State reply individually to each and every comment submitted.
  • The Lab’s comments and NMED’s response to comments must be made public.

All future work must have enforceable deadlines

  • The proposed draft 2016 Consent Order proposes a “Campaign” approach with enforceable cleanup deadlines limited to the work scheduled only for that year.
  • I request that all anticipated cleanup projects have scheduled, enforceable cleanup deadlines from the beginning of any revised Consent Order.

The Consent Order cannot be open-ended

  • Any Consent Order for LANL cleanup must have a final compliance date to which the State and the Lab agree to and are so bound.
  • The public should be given an opportunity for a public hearing on the new final compliance date as required by New Mexico’s hazardous waste regulations.

 

SPECIFIC COMMENTS

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Extend the Original Final Compliance Date Without Required Public Participation

The proposed 2016 consent order would indefinitely extend the final compliance date for completing corrective action at the Laboratory, without the opportunity for a public hearing with formal testimony and cross-examination of witnesses. Any extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order requires a 60-day public comment period and the opportunity for a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination.  The Environment Department is legally required to follow these procedural requirements.

The legal requirements that mandate a public hearing are clear. Section XII of the 2005 Consent Order establishes the compliance schedule for implementation and completion of corrective actions at specific sites at the Laboratory. This schedule is mandatory. The final report that was to be submitted under the 2005 Consent Order – therefore, the final compliance date – was the remedy completion report for the huge Area G waste dump, required to be submitted by December 6, 2015. The proposed 2016 Consent Order would indefinitely extend this final compliance date by not designating a specific final compliance date.

But this revision must be treated as a major Class 3 permit modification. Section III.W.5 of the 2005 Consent Order explicitly provides for the preservation of full procedural rights for the public as follows:

This Consent Order hereby incorporates all rights, procedures and other protections afforded the Respondents [DOE and UC, now LANS] and the public pursuant to the regulations at 20.4.1.900 NMAC (incorporating 40 C.F.R. § 270.42) and 20.4.1.901 NMAC, including, but not limited to, opportunities for public participation, including public notice and comment, administrative hearings, and judicial appeals concerning, for example, remedy selection decisions of the [Environment] Department.

Thus, extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order requires a 60-day public comment period and the opportunity for a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination.

 

The Proposed New Consent Order Must Not Limit Other Public Participation Procedures

The proposed 2016 Consent Order expressly limits public participation requirements in a way that completely diverges from those provided in the 2005 Consent Order.  As explained above, the 2005 Consent Order explicitly protects procedural due process rights available to the public.  The proposed 2016 Consent Order explicitly removes these protections, as follows:

The Parties agree that the rights, procedures and other protections set forth at 20.4.1.900 NMAC (incorporating 40 C.F.R. § 270.42), 20.4.1.901 NMAC, and 20.4.1.902 NMAC, including, but not limited to, opportunities for public participation, including public notice and comment, administrative hearings, and judicial appeals, do not apply to modification of the Consent Order itself. [Emphasis added]

Thus, as proposed in the above language, the Parties (the Environment Department, Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Security, LLC) have inappropriately agreed to remove the due process rights, procedures and other protections provided to the public under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.  This provision must be stripped from the proposed 2016 Consent Order.

 

The Proposed New Consent Order Must Not Eliminate Enforceable Deadlines

The proposed 2016 consent order would eliminate all the deadlines for completing cleanup under the 2005 Consent Order, and replace them with an open-ended and vague scheduling process, with limited enforcement opportunities.

The 2005 Consent Order, in Section XII, established dozens of deadlines for the completion of corrective action tasks, including completion of investigations at individual sites, installation of groundwater monitoring wells, submittal of groundwater monitoring reports, evaluation of remedial alternatives for individual sites, and completion of final remedies. These deadlines are enforceable under section III.G.

The proposed 2016 Consent Order would abandon the 2005 Consent Order provisions and replace them with a so-called “Campaign Approach” under Section VIII.  Under Section VIII.A.3, it would be up to the DOE, not the regulator at the New Mexico Environment Department, to select the timing and scope of each “campaign.”

Enforceable deadlines for cleanup tasks would apply no more than one year into the future. Deadlines would be based on “Campaigns” negotiated each year with DOE with no public participation and opportunity to comment on the schedule. To add insult to injury, the annual schedule would be determined by funding at DOE’s discretion, rather than the schedule driving the funding, which was the fundamental approach of the 2005 Consent Order.

All cleanup projects must mandatory completion dates scheduled from the beginning date of any revised Consent Order, and must be fully enforceable.

 

Existing Violations Must Not Be Eliminated

Section II.A of the proposed 2016 Consent Order would “settle any outstanding violations of the 2005 Consent Order.” This is a get out of jail free card.  Without enforceable schedules from the beginning, any consent order is not truly unenforceable, and the Environment Department would be abdicating its responsibility to protect human health and the environment as required by the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.  NMED must not surrender its regulatory and enforcement powers!

 

Attorney General Approval Must Be Obtained

The 2005 Consent Order was signed by the Attorney General of New Mexico for purposes of the Covenant Not to Sue (section III.) and the Reservation of Rights (section III.). As indicated on the draft signature page, there is no indication of the NM Attorney General plans to sign the proposed 2016 Consent Order. Yet it would provide the State of New Mexico with a covenant not to sue DOE on behalf of the State of New Mexico, not merely on behalf of the Environment Department. The Attorney General was an active participant, representing the People of New Mexico, in the 2005 Consent Order.  The Environment Department has a responsibility to ensure that the NM Attorney General is consulted, and his approval obtained, before any consent order is adopted.

 

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Omit Detailed Requirements Found in the 2005 Consent Order

The 2005 Consent Order includes numerous detailed requirements for such things as well installation, sample collection, and preparation of work plans and reports. These ensure that the cleanup work is done properly, consistently, and according to standard industry practices.  They also ensured that work plans and reports were consistent, easy for the Environment Department to review, and easy for the public to understand.  The proposed 2016 Consent Order omits many such requirements, which should be corrected.

 

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Allow Budget To Dictate Cleanup 

The proposed 2016 Consent Order allows DOE to provide cleanup priorities based on anticipated budget, which is backwards. . By the time NMED receives an estimated annual cleanup budget from DOE, the horse has left the barn. The original purpose of the 2005 Consent Order was to compel DOE and LANL to ask Congress for additional funds to accelerate cleanup. The giant loophole in the proposed 2016 Consent Order that allows DOE and LANL to say that they don’t have sufficient funding and therefore can choose to exempt themselves from cleanup should be eliminated.

 

Cleanup Levels Must Remain Strict

Section IX Cleanup Objectives and Cleanup Levels of the proposed 2016 Consent Order would allow DOE to “develop site specific ecological cleanup levels” to mitigate unacceptable ecological risk due to release of site-related contaminants. There is no mention of NMED’s role in this process. DOE would be allowed to demonstrate to NMED that any particular “cleanup objective is impracticable.” To do this, DOE may consider such things as technical difficulty, the cost of the project, hazards to workers or to the public, and any other basis that may support a finding of impracticability. If NMED approves the impracticability request, DOE can then propose alternative cleanup methods using site-specific risk assessments. All of this could take place behind closed doors, as there are no public participation requirements in this section. Please clarify what cleanup levels will be used and when and where they will be applied.

 

New Mexico deserves better

In closing, the Environment Department’s proposed 2016 Consent Order allows the federal government to leave Northern New Mexico contaminated if DOE believes that cleanup is too difficult or costly– a sorry situation indeed for a nuclear weapons facility that receives over 2 billion taxpayer dollars a year. Instead, the New Mexico Environment Department should implement a new revised Consent Order that is aggressive and enforceable and in which the State of New Mexico stays in the driver’s seat, not LANL and DOE. That would be a real win-win for New Mexicans, helping to permanently protect the environment and our precious water resources while creating hundreds of high-paying cleanup jobs. .

 

Sincerely,

Name

City

 

The new draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/lanlperm.html#COOC

 

NMED’s public notice for the draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/documents/PublicNotice__English.pdf

 

The public comment period ends 5:00 pm May 31, 2016.

Comments should be submitted to kathryn.roberts@state.nm.us

Public Meeting: Los Alamos Cleanup at the Crossroads

Dear Friends,

Please join us for an informal public meeting Tuesday, May 24 at 6pm.

Main Library Community Room, 145 Washington Ave, Santa Fe, NM

Please remember that no refreshments are allowed at the Library.

See you there!

 

Los Alamos Cleanup at the Crossroads
A Discussion on the Future of Cleanup at Los Alamos

 

We have opportunities to take new directions

How do we get to the Northern New Mexico we want leave for future generations?

Learn how your input can help make better cleanup decisions at Los Alamos National Laboratory

 

Join us for a
Public Meeting: Tuesday May 24, 2016, 6 – 7:30pm
at the
Main Library Community Room, 145 Washington Ave, Santa Fe

Topics to be Addressed
Los Alamos Cleanup Order

  • For “fence-to-fence” cleanup of legacy Cold War wastes
  • The 10-year trip since the original Consent Order was signed in 2005
  • New “Consent Order” Proposed by the NM Environment Department
    • Proposed changes from the existing
    • What can be improved?
    • Who is in the driver’s seat?
    • Just along for the ride, or will the public have real input?
    • Public comments due May 31

 

Department of Energy’s new Environmental Management at Los Alamos

  • Cleanup work no longer under nuclear weapons work
  • Looking for a new contractor
  • Can cleanup accelerate?

 

Nuclear Watch’s lawsuit

  • Alleging violations of the 2005 Consent Order

 

Questions, answers, and discussion

  • What’s on your mind
  • Your comments are important

 

Brought to you by Nuclear Watch New Mexico

(505) 989-7342

info@nukewatch.org

www.nukewatch.org

 

Materials Disposal Area B (MDA B) Contamination Excavation at LANL - Will removal of wastes continue?
Inside a protective enclosure, Cold War wastes are excavated at Los Alamos - Will it continue? (LANL photo)

 

Nuclear Watch NM Files Lawsuit Over Lack of Cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab

May 17, 2016

Nuclear Watch NM Files Lawsuit

Over Lack of Cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab;

NM Environment Dept. Forgoes Nearly $300 Million in Penalties

Santa Fe, NM – Nuclear Watch New Mexico has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS), the for-profit operator of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, over their failure to meet cleanup milestones under a 2005 “Consent Order” they agreed to with the New Mexico Environment Department. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center is representing NukeWatch in this legal action to enforce cleanup at LANL.

The suit was filed under the citizen suit provisions of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which the 2005 Consent Order explicitly incorporated. The law provides that any person who violates any requirement of RCRA is liable for a civil penalty up to $37,500 for each day of violation. Our suit claims twelve violations, which range in length of time of up to 675 days each. Our current cost estimate of the alleged violations approaches 300 million dollars and counting.

Jay Coghlan, NukeWatch Executive Director, commented, “The federal government plans to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years completely rebuilding U.S. nuclear forces. Meanwhile, cleanup at the Los Alamos Lab, the birthplace of nuclear weapons, continues to be delayed, delayed, delayed. We seek to make the for-profit nuclear weaponeers cleanup their radioactive and toxic mess first before making another one for a nuclear weapons stockpile that is already bloated far beyond what we need. Real cleanup would be a win-win for New Mexicans, permanently protecting our water and environment while creating hundreds of high paying jobs.”

In 2005 the New Mexico Environment Department compelled DOE and the University of California (LANL’s manager at the time) to enter into a detailed Consent Order that mapped the way toward comprehensive cleanup at LANL. However, beginning in 2011 with Governor Martinez’s administration, the New Mexico Environment Department allowed LANL’s new contractor, the for-profit Los Alamos National Security, LLC, to stop virtually all cleanup, instead engaging in a “campaign” to move above ground, monitored radioactive transuranic wastes to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). That campaign ended in disaster when an improperly treated radioactive waste drum from LANL ruptured, contaminating 21 workers and indefinitely closing that multi-billion dollar facility.

The 2005 Consent Order required DOE and LANL to investigate, characterize, and clean up hazardous and mixed radioactive contaminants from 70 years of nuclear weapons research and production. It also stipulated a detailed compliance schedule that the Lab was required to meet. Ironically, the last milestone, due December 6, 2015, required a report from LANL on how it successfully cleaned up Area G, its largest waste dump. However, real cleanup remains decades away, if ever. The Lab plans to “cap and cover” Area G, thereby creating a permanent nuclear waste dump in unlined pits and shafts, with an estimated 200,000 cubic yards of toxic and radioactive wastes buried above the regional groundwater aquifer, four miles uphill from the Rio Grande.

Scott Kovac, NukeWatch Research Director, noted, “DOE and NMED agreed to all parts of the 2005 Consent Order, including the schedule. Then under the Martinez administration NMED granted more than 150 extensions requests, and DOE and LANS have still missed many of those deadlines. NukeWatch has taken this necessary step to enforce cleanup at LANL, to hold DOE accountable for protecting New Mexicans and make cleanup of legacy wastes the top priority. It’s ridiculous that we have to have this cleanup debate after 70 years of contamination from nuclear weapons research and production.”

The New Mexico Environment Department has issued a draft revised proposed Consent Order, for which the public comment period expires on May 31. The proposed new Consent Order specifically states that it “supersedes the 2005 Compliance Order on Consent (2005 Consent Order) and settles any outstanding alleged violations under the 2005 Consent Order.” (Sec. II.A.) This then would absolve DOE and LANS of nearly $300 million in potential penalties.

Moreover, the new draft Order puts DOE in the driver’s seat instead of New Mexico. It explicitly states that, “DOE’s project plans and tools will be used to identify proposed milestones and targets” (p. 27) and “DOE shall define the use of screening levels and cleanup levels” (p. 31) Moreover, DOE can opt out of any cleanup because of “impracticability” or cost of cleanup (p. 34) and that “DOE shall update the milestones…. [according to] changes in anticipated funding levels.” (p. 28). So the new Consent Order is made subordinate to DOE’s budget, which has been cutting cleanup while increasing funding for nuclear weapons programs that caused the mess to begin with. This is the opposite of the original Consent Order, whose intent was to make DOE and LANL get increased funding for cleanup.

The relief or remedy that Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks through its lawsuit is simple, asking the Court to enter a judgment “Enjoining the Defendants [DOE and LANS] to take action to come into compliance with the March 1, 2005 Consent Order, as amended on October 29, 2012, according to a reasonable but aggressive schedule ordered by this Court…”

With that, Nuclear Watch New Mexico hopes to get real, comprehensive cleanup back on track at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

# # #

 Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s lawsuit complaint is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-Complaint-Filed-20160512.pdf

Our complaint alleges twelve counts of milestone compliance violations where NMED did not grant extensions. From there we calculate 7,853 total days of noncompliance at $37,500.00 per day, equal to $294,487,500, with the clock still ticking.

Our May 5, 2016 second notice of intent to sue (which is a good summary of our complaint) is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-2nd-NOI-DOE-LANS-5-5-16.pdf

Our January 20, 2016 notice of intent to sue is available at http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/NukeWatch-NM-NOI-to-DOE-and-LANS-20160120.pdf

NMED’s revised Consent Order is available at http://energy.gov/em/nnmcab/downloads/nmed-revised-lanl-consent-order-draft-march-2016

 

 

Comment Period Extended for Proposed Los Alamos Cleanup Order

The New Mexico Environment Department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau is extending the public comment period on the proposed changes to the Draft Consent Order which governs legacy clean-up at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The public comment period now continues through May 31.  To obtain a copy of the documents or a portion thereof, visit the NMED website at https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/lanlperm.html under Consent Order.

Written comments must be based on information available for review and include, to the extent practicable, all referenced factual materials.

NMED is scheduled to present on the public comments received to date at the May 18 Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Committee meeting at the Cities of Gold Hotel, 10-A Cities of Gold Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.

 

AND WE HAVE EXPANDED OUR COMMENTS

Please let your voice be heard and turn in public comments. Copy the sample comments below and paste into an email. Please modify as you see fit, then email to the address below. If you don’t mind, please cc: us at: info(at)nukewatch(dot)org

 

[date]

 

Ms. Kathryn Roberts

New Mexico Environment Department

Post Office Box 5469

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502

 

Via email to kathryn.roberts@state.nm.us

 

Dear Ms. Roberts,

I urge the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to abandon the proposed 2016 Compliance Order on Consent, or Consent Order, for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), released for public comment on March 30, 2016.  It creates serious problems and represents a giant step backwards in achieving the goal of genuine cleanup of the Laboratory.

The Environment Department should keep the existing Consent Order that went into effect March 1, 2005, while modifying and updating a cleanup schedule that includes a realistic final compliance date.  I also formally request that NMED provide the opportunity for a public hearing on the revised cleanup schedule and new completion date, in accordance with the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act and the 2005 Consent Order.

 

GENERAL COMMENTS

 

The opportunity for a public hearing must be provided

  • Any extension of a final compliance date must be treated as a Class 3 permit modification to the 2005 Consent Order and therefore requires a 60-day public comment period.
  • Any extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order can be implemented only after the opportunity for public comment and a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination of witnesses.
  • The Environment Department is legally required to follow these public participation requirements that explicitly incorporated into the 2005 Consent Order.

 

Withdraw the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order

  • The proposed draft represents a big step backwards in achieving the goal of genuine cleanup of the Laboratory.
  • The Environment Department should keep the current 2005 Consent Order and revise the Section XII cleanup schedule and final compliance date.
  • I request that the Environment Department withdraw the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order.

 

The public deserves the opportunity to comment on all following drafts

  • It seems likely that a later draft – after the Lab’s and public comments are incorporated into a revised draft – and after closed-door negotiations between the Environment Department and the Laboratory – could be substantially different from the current draft.
  • I request that the public have the opportunity to review and comment on any further drafts of a revised proposed 2016 Consent Order.

 

Public participation provisions in the existing 2005 Consent Order must be incorporated into the proposed draft 2016 Consent Order

  • The proposed draft 2016 Consent Order explicitly limits public participation requirements incorporated into the existing 2005 Consent Order.
  • I request that all notices, milestones, targets, annual negotiations, and modifications require public review and comment, and the opportunity for a public hearing.

 

The current state of cleanup must be updated and next steps scheduled

  • Work under the existing 2005 Consent Order needs to be subject to public review.  In 2005 DOE agreed to complete cleanup under the Consent Order by December 6, 2015, which did not happen.  In order for the public to understand where the work under the existing Consent Order stands, LANL should be required to provide a current, publicly available list of the status of all cleanup projects under the 2005 Consent Order.
  • Further, I request that next steps for cleanup at every site listed in the 2005 Consent Order be documented in detail and given a scheduled completion date, or alternatively verified as already completed.
  • All documents submitted under the 2005 Consent Order must be incorporated into any revised Consent Order.

 

All documents must be made public as required in the 2005 Consent Order

  • The State and the Lab must make all communications, documents, submittals, approvals, notices of deficiencies and denials under any revised Consent Order readily and electronically available to the public.
  • The State and the Lab must notify individuals by e-mail of all submittals, as required in the 2005 Consent Order.

 

The Environment Department must respond in writing to all public comments

  • I request that the State reply individually to each and every comment submitted.
  • The Lab’s comments and NMED’s response to comments must be made public.

 

All future work must have enforceable deadlines

  • The proposed draft 2016 Consent Order proposes a “Campaign” approach with enforceable cleanup deadlines limited to the work scheduled only for that year.
  • I request that all anticipated cleanup projects have scheduled, enforceable cleanup deadlines from the beginning of any revised Consent Order.

 

The Consent Order cannot be open-ended

  • Any Consent Order for LANL cleanup must have a final compliance date to which the State and the Lab agree to and are so bound.
  • The public should be given an opportunity for a public hearing on the new final compliance date as required by New Mexico’s hazardous waste regulations. 

 

SPECIFIC COMMENTS

 

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Extend the Original Final Compliance Date Without Required Public Participation

The proposed 2016 consent order would indefinitely extend the final compliance date for completing corrective action at the Laboratory, without the opportunity for a public hearing with formal testimony and cross-examination of witnesses. Any extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order requires a 60-day public comment period and the opportunity for a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination.  The Environment Department is legally required to follow these procedural requirements.

The legal requirements that mandate a public hearing are clear. Section XII of the 2005 Consent Order establishes the compliance schedule for implementation and completion of corrective actions at specific sites at the Laboratory. This schedule is mandatory. The final report that was to be submitted under the 2005 Consent Order – therefore, the final compliance date – was the remedy completion report for the huge Area G waste dump, required to be submitted by December 6, 2015. The proposed 2016 Consent Order would indefinitely extend this final compliance date by not designating a specific final compliance date.

But this revision must be treated as a major Class 3 permit modification. Section III.W.5 of the 2005 Consent Order explicitly provides for the preservation of full procedural rights for the public as follows:

This Consent Order hereby incorporates all rights, procedures and other protections afforded the Respondents [DOE and UC, now LANS] and the public pursuant to the regulations at 20.4.1.900 NMAC (incorporating 40 C.F.R. § 270.42) and 20.4.1.901 NMAC, including, but not limited to, opportunities for public participation, including public notice and comment, administrative hearings, and judicial appeals concerning, for example, remedy selection decisions of the [Environment] Department.

Thus, extension of a final compliance date under the 2005 Consent Order requires a 60-day public comment period and the opportunity for a public hearing, including formal testimony and cross-examination.

 

The Proposed New Consent Order Must Not Limit Other Public Participation Procedures

The proposed 2016 Consent Order expressly limits public participation requirements in a way that completely diverges from those provided in the 2005 Consent Order.  As explained above, the 2005 Consent Order explicitly protects procedural due process rights available to the public.  The proposed 2016 Consent Order explicitly removes these protections, as follows:

The Parties agree that the rights, procedures and other protections set forth at 20.4.1.900 NMAC (incorporating 40 C.F.R. § 270.42), 20.4.1.901 NMAC, and 20.4.1.902 NMAC, including, but not limited to, opportunities for public participation, including public notice and comment, administrative hearings, and judicial appeals, do not apply to modification of the Consent Order itself. [Emphasis added]

Thus, as proposed in the above language, the Parties (the Environment Department, Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Security, LLC) have inappropriately agreed to remove the due process rights, procedures and other protections provided to the public under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.  This provision must be stripped from the proposed 2016 Consent Order.

 

The Proposed New Consent Order Must Not Eliminate Enforceable Deadlines

The proposed 2016 consent order would eliminate all the deadlines for completing cleanup under the 2005 Consent Order, and replace them with an open-ended and vague scheduling process, with limited enforcement opportunities.

The 2005 Consent Order, in Section XII, established dozens of deadlines for the completion of corrective action tasks, including completion of investigations at individual sites, installation of groundwater monitoring wells, submittal of groundwater monitoring reports, evaluation of remedial alternatives for individual sites, and completion of final remedies. These deadlines are enforceable under section III.G.

The proposed 2016 Consent Order would abandon the 2005 Consent Order provisions and replace them with a so-called “Campaign Approach” under Section VIII.  Under Section VIII.A.3, it would be up to the DOE, not the regulator at the New Mexico Environment Department, to select the timing and scope of each “campaign.”

Enforceable deadlines for cleanup tasks would apply no more than one year into the future. Deadlines would be based on “Campaigns” negotiated each year with DOE with no public participation and opportunity to comment on the schedule. To add insult to injury, the annual schedule would be determined by funding at DOE’s discretion, rather than the schedule driving the funding, which was the fundamental approach of the 2005 Consent Order.

All cleanup projects must mandatory completion dates scheduled from the beginning date of any revised Consent Order, and must be fully enforceable.

 

Existing Violations Must Not Be Eliminated

Section II.A of the proposed 2016 Consent Order would “settle any outstanding violations of the 2005 Consent Order.” This is a get out of jail free card.  Without enforceable schedules from the beginning, any consent order is not truly unenforceable, and the Environment Department would be abdicating its responsibility to protect human health and the environment as required by the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the New Mexico Hazardous Waste Act.  NMED must not surrender its regulatory and enforcement powers!

 

Attorney General Approval Must Be Obtained

The 2005 Consent Order was signed by the Attorney General of New Mexico for purposes of the Covenant Not to Sue (section III.) and the Reservation of Rights (section III.). As indicated on the draft signature page, there is no indication of the NM Attorney General plans to sign the proposed 2016 Consent Order. Yet it would provide the State of New Mexico with a covenant not to sue DOE on behalf of the State of New Mexico, not merely on behalf of the Environment Department. The Attorney General was an active participant, representing the People of New Mexico, in the 2005 Consent Order.  The Environment Department has a responsibility to ensure that the NM Attorney General is consulted, and his approval obtained, before any consent order is adopted.

 

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Omit Detailed Requirements Found in the 2005 Consent Order

The 2005 Consent Order includes numerous detailed requirements for such things as well installation, sample collection, and preparation of work plans and reports. These ensure that the cleanup work is done properly, consistently, and according to standard industry practices.  They also ensured that work plans and reports were consistent, easy for the Environment Department to review, and easy for the public to understand.  The proposed 2016 Consent Order omits many such requirements, which should be corrected.

 

The Proposed 2016 Consent Order Must Not Allow Budget To Dictate Cleanup

The proposed 2016 Consent Order allows DOE to provide cleanup priorities based on anticipated budget, which is backwards. . By the time NMED receives an estimated annual cleanup budget from DOE, the horse has left the barn. The original purpose of the 2005 Consent Order was to compel DOE and LANL to ask Congress for additional funds to accelerate cleanup. The giant loophole in the proposed 2016 Consent Order that allows DOE and LANL to say that they don’t have sufficient funding and therefore can choose to exempt themselves from cleanup should be eliminated.

 

Cleanup Levels Must Remain Strict

Section IX Cleanup Objectives and Cleanup Levels of the proposed 2016 Consent Order would allow DOE to “develop site specific ecological cleanup levels” to mitigate unacceptable ecological risk due to release of site-related contaminants. There is no mention of NMED’s role in this process. DOE would be allowed to demonstrate to NMED that any particular “cleanup objective is impracticable.” To do this, DOE may consider such things as technical difficulty, the cost of the project, hazards to workers or to the public, and any other basis that may support a finding of impracticability. If NMED approves the impracticability request, DOE can then propose alternative cleanup methods using site-specific risk assessments. All of this could take place behind closed doors, as there are no public participation requirements in this section. Please clarify what cleanup levels will be used and when and where they will be applied.

New Mexico deserves better

In closing, the Environment Department’s proposed 2016 Consent Order allows the federal government to leave Northern New Mexico contaminated if DOE believes that cleanup is too difficult or costly– a sorry situation indeed for a nuclear weapons facility that receives over 2 billion taxpayer dollars a year. Instead, the New Mexico Environment Department should implement a new revised Consent Order that is aggressive and enforceable and in which the State of New Mexico stays in the driver’s seat, not LANL and DOE. That would be a real win-win for New Mexicans, helping to permanently protect the environment and our precious water resources while creating hundreds of high-paying cleanup jobs. .

 

Sincerely,

Name

City

 

The new draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/lanlperm.html#COOC

 

NMED’s public notice for the draft Consent Order is available at

https://www.env.nm.gov/HWB/documents/PublicNotice__English.pdf

 

The public comment period ends 5:00 pm May 31, 2016.

Comments should be submitted to kathryn.roberts@state.nm.us

Scroll to top