Summary: Local governments get little in return for being members of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC). That is because the Coalition is ineffective, dysfunctional, wastes taxpayers’ money and stands in the way of genuine, comprehensive cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The RCLC was created to serve the interests of the Department of Energy and Los Alamos County, both of whom strongly support expanded plutonium pit production for new nuclear weapons and supply 80% of the Coalition’s funding. The Regional Coalition brings no discernible economic benefit to local governments other than already rich Los Alamos County because the Lab’s presence is an economic net loss to them. Local governments should not put their time and money into the Coalition. Instead, their constituents would be better served if local governments left the coalition and advocated for comprehensive cleanup that would permanently protect the environment while providing hundreds of high paying jobs.
In 2011 the Department of Energy pulled promised funding from the Community Involvement Fund administered by the New Mexico Community Foundation that supported independent, often critical citizen and tribal analyses of DOE cleanup programs. At the same time DOE began funding the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities modeled on earlier alliances with local governments around the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, CO and the Mound Plant, near Mound, OH. As an early Regional Coalition fact sheet noted:
“As shown at Rocky Flats (Colorado) and Mound (Ohio), upfront investments in regional, governmental partnerships yield significant returns for the taxpayer. At Rocky Flats, for instance, DOE provided the local government organization approximately $300,000/year for seven years. In return, DOE was able to proactively resolve complex technical and policy issues. As the U.S. Government Accountability Office recognized, resolving those issues with local elected officials was part of the reason Rocky Flats closed years early, saving the taxpayer billions of dollars. Mound realized similar savings through its investments with local governments.” 1
Saving taxpayers’ money is always a virtue, except when it’s at the expense of needed cleanup, the lack of which can impact precious water resources and ongoing generations. The Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) and Rocky Flats’ shared mission of plutonium pit production was abruptly stopped at the Colorado site in 1989 by an FBI raid investigating environmental crimes.2 Subsequent “cleanup” at the Rocky Flats Plant was cleanup on the cheap. Originally estimated to take decades and cost up to $40 billion dollars, DOE’s so-called cleanup took less than 10 years and cost under $7 billion.