By KAY MATTHEWS
The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC) will be meeting on Friday, April 27 at Española City Hall from 12:30 to 2:30. The previous meeting scheduled in Taos on April 6 was cancelled. The meeting in Española is not going to be a proforma RCLC meeting. Folks in Taos, in coordination with others in the Pojoaque Valley and Española, have been working together, and with several of their respective representatives on the RCLC, to make sure that their demands for reform are heard on Friday. The RCLC is comprised of the City of Española, Los Alamos County, Ohkay Owingeh, Pueblo of Jemez, Rio Arriba County, Santa Fe County, City of Santa Fe, Taos County, and Town of Taos.
I published the initial list of demands on my Facebook page on April 18, which called for changes in the Coalition’s Joint Powers Agreement. Constituents believe the agreement is in conflict with the stated purpose of the Coalition to lobby Washington D.C. for funding to clean up toxic and radioactive waste at LANL. The RCLC has been under scrutiny since its inception in 2011 for lack of transparency in its lobbying efforts. Most recently it made headlines when the Executive Director, Andrea Romero, was accused of improper expenditures and reimbursements on a lobbying trip to Washington D.C., and whose contract was not renewed, which I covered in a March 18 La Jicarita article.
The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities Describes itself thus:
“The Regional Coalition is a conduit for Northern New Mexico communities to make a direct impact on local, state and federal government decision-making in regional economic development and nuclear cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL). The Regional Coalition is comprised of elected and tribal officials representing their local communities to ensure national decisions incorporate local needs and interests.”
The FY 2018 Congressional Budget Request for Los Alamos National Laboratory for 2.48 billion taxpayer dollars allocates over 1.7 billion dollars or 69.8% to nuclear weapons activities, while only 188 million dollars or 7.6% are allocated for environmental cleanup. We argue that the Coalition has no need to lobby for nuclear weapons funding as the Lab is already spectacularly funded and has been for decades. However, the board does have an extremely serious need to use its taxpayer funds to advocate for dramatically increased funding for cleanup of legacy radioactive and hazardous waste.
The RCLC Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) is in conflict with its stated purpose and contradictory to what communities were told at the time they were recruited to join the coalition, which was, among other endeavors, that it would lobby in Washington for increased funding for cleanup of LANL’s 155,000 meters of radioactive and hazardous wastes, not for funding for the component of the DOE/NNSA LANL Mission of plutonium pit production and other weapons-related activities.
At its inception in 2011, the public asked that the JPA be changed to reflect its original promise, but was told that it couldn’t be done. The Regional Coalition’s website also states that it “works in partnership to create one voice to ensure national decisions incorporate local needs and concerns.”
Now that the JPA is being revised and changes are to be made, these are several of the issues that must be addressed:
1) Removal of the phrase in the JPA: “2a(ii) advocacy of long-term stable funding for LANL missions” (i.e. lobbying for $ for nuclear bomb production at LANL).
2) Conflict of Interest: The RCLC Board must deal with conflict of interest. In addition to the new rules for the executive directorship, current or former employees of LANL or Sandia Labs being considered for board positions should undergo a stringent vetting process with public review in order to determine whether there is a conflict of interest. Or in the alternative, no elected official who is also an employee of LANL should be allowed to participate as a board member.
3) Public Participation: The RCLC board must expand opportunities for public participation: move the public comment period to the beginning of the meeting, and allow for public discussion during the meeting and before decisions are made. The current 15 minute public comment period at the end of each meeting with no interaction between public and board cheats the democratic process.
Further, in the mutual interest of the Board members and their constituents becoming more informed, we request that the Regional Coalition host a presentation by Leroy Moore, PhD, former committee member of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, to speak on Rocky Flats at the July meeting or sooner.
Finally, if the RCLC is really true to its mission of LANL cleanup it should work to rescind the 2016 Revised Consent Order (CO). We argue that the revised CO stands in the way of cleanup, which is demonstrated by the fact that within a couple of months of the signing of the Consent Order the Department of Energy produced its Baseline Lifetime Estimate for Cleanup Costs, which were woefully low and explicitly linked to the new CO that the New Mexico Environment Department signed under the Martinez Administration’s Ryan Flynn, who has since taken a job as the Executive Director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. The RCLC should be working to rescind the revised and weakened Consent Order, and either reinstate the 2005 CO or rewrite to close all of the new loopholes whereby LANL can avoid costly cleanup by simply claiming it is “too difficult or too costly.” In fact, comprehensive cleanup would be a win/win for Northern New Mexico in that it could provide lifetimes of local jobs in many areas of expertise and equally important health, safety and environmental stewardship.