Editor’s Note: The Santa Fe County Commission meeting at 2:30 today, April 9, includes the agenda item: “2. Discussion of and Possible Action the Restated and Amended Joint Powers Agreement Establishing the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities by and Among the Incorporated County of Los Alamos, the City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, The City of Espanola, Rio Arriba County, the Town of Taos, Taos County and The Sovereign Governments of the Pueblo of Okay Owing and the Pueblo of Jemez.” Joni Arends of Concerned Citizens of Nuclear Safety and Taos activists who have been calling for the revision of the Joint Powers Agreement to better clarify the RCLC’s mission, or for its disbandment altogether, are urging folks to attend the meeting and call for public input. Below are two letters written by Taos activist Suzie Schwartz that provide the background and rationale for their demands.
It has just come to our attention that the Santa Fe County Commission is planning to discuss and possibly act on the RCLC’s Revised JPA tomorrow. It appears that the agenda item may be carried out without an opportunity for public review and comment. While we welcome discussion, we respectfully disagree with any possibility of action on the item at this point for a number of reasons.
Among other requests to the RCLC, members of the public have repeatedly asked that the Board specifically and publicly define the “LANL missions” that the coalition members support and “mission diversification” as per JPA Whereas clause 4 (p.1) and Section A (i) and (ii). (p.2)
The RCLC’s loyalty to “LANL’s missions” and “mission diversification” appear in the RCLC’s Legislative Priorities and Work plan as well, but nowhere are these terms defined anywhere on the RCLC website or anywhere else as far as we can tell.
The RCLC’s responses to these requests are crucial to your constituents’ understanding of what the RCLC does and whom it serves.
The RCLC Bylaws, Legislative Priorities, and Workplan documents state that the RCLC is interested in informing the public of its purpose and advocacy, and in obtaining input from the public. In the interest of transparency and accountability to the public whom you serve, we again respectfully request that the RCLC Board and its Executive Director respond to their constituents’ requests and refrain from ratifying the revised JPA until after the draft has been published and distributed, and after a period of public review and comment has been conducted.
We have also been told that all nine community-coalition members must ratify the JPA before it goes into force. Therefore, we further ask you to refrain from action on the Revised JPA until the RCLC has informed its coalition members as to exactly how that process will be conducted.
Please see attached Open Letter to Senators Heinrich and Udall from an RCLC Board member meeting with Senator Udall and Congressman Lujan’s staff on March 20, which includes further public concerns about the DOE/NMED 2016 Revised Consent Order governing cleanup and LANL’s economic impacts that I didn’t have time to outline in this letter on such short notice. (Taos Town Council member and RCLC Vice Chair Darien Fernandez invited us to submit our concerns for that meeting and we have yet to receive a report of the meeting.)
We believe the concerns voiced in the open letter are relevant to the ratification, or not, of this draft of the RCLC JPA revision. (A condensed version of the Open Letter was also published by the Los Alamos Reporter, and a further condensed version has been submitted but not yet published to the Taos News.)
Thank you so much for your consideration and for your service.
On behalf of many concerned citizens interested in peaceful and sustainable futures,
Dear Senators Udall and Heinrich,
Taos Town Council member and RCLC Board Vice Chair, Darien Fernandez, invited
me to submit a letter to you for your meeting tomorrow with RCLC Board
members. I am writing on behalf of many of your Taoseno constituents who are
concerned about Los Alamos National Laboratory and its activities.
We appreciate the opportunity to communicate with you in a way that will
hopefully generate a more specific response than usual.
We greatly appreciate the position you’ve taken on Executive Order 140.1
Interface with the DNFSB [Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board]. We hope you will be able to continue to advocate on behalf of your constituents and the Board to reverse the Order to ensure that the DNFSB can continue to act on behalf of the people, particularly in the area of Nuclear Criticality Safety at LANL and PF-4.
We also appreciate the position you’ve taken on the safety of storage at WIPP and
your questioning of the diabolical and unbelievably dangerous and expensive plan
by HOLTEC/NRC to ship and store all of the nations spent nuclear fuel rods to
southern New Mexico, and we want to thank you.
We have three other topics of interest we would like you to consider.
1. “plutonium sustainment”
In the interest of peaceful and sustainable futures for Taos, we have gathered
many small business and non-profit endorsements for an updated resolution that
we are bringing before our Town and County governments. We are continuing to
gather endorsements and also individual petition signatures in support of the
In basic terms, the non binding resolution requests that our governments
strengthen and enforce the revised 2016 DOE-NMED Consent Order (CO)
governing cleanup at LANL in regard to Area G, expresses its opposition to the
continuation of nuclear weapons activities, including expanded production of new
types of pits, and instead, diversifies its missions by redirecting nuclear weapons
funding to expand non-proliferation activities, cleanup, and peaceful and
sustainable research and technologies, including climate science.
Historically, funding for nuclear weapons activities has dwarfed all other activities
at LANL. The current FY 2019 DOE Congressional Budget Request of ~$2.69 billion provides 70% or ~$1.9 billion for “plutonium sustainment,” ~10% for
non-proliferation, ~7% for cleanup, and less than 3% for all other sciences
When your Taosneño constituents learn about and understand what plutonium
pits are, how many we already have in storage with reliable lifetimes of 100 years
or more, how many nuclear warheads the US and Russia still have, that the DOE
and New Mexico Senators Heinrich and Udall want to manufacture up to 80 more
new “pits” per year at LANL for new smaller “safer to use” nuclear weapons, and
that the Lab still has many serious unresolved nuclear criticality safety issues,
with all of the above using unimaginable amounts of their tax dollars, they almost
universally say, “NO.”
While the Trump Administration is predictably working to undermine ongoing
cleanup efforts at LANL, the current Consent Order (CO) was drastically curtailed
in 2016, before Trump took office. The revised 2016 CO allows the Lab to
continue to delay characterization of legacy radioactive and hazardous waste in
the 63 acre Area G dump, citing that other areas have a more urgent need for
cleanup. Further, the 2016 CO recommends an engineered cover or “cap and
cover” remedy, similar to what was done at the devastatingly contaminated Rocky
Flats pit factory after it was permanently shut following a raid by the FBI for
“Cap and cover” may seem to be a cheaper option to the DOE than proven
comprehensive and effective cleanup methods, but neglecting to characterize the
legacy Area G waste, as per the “cap and cover” method could permanently
threaten the environment, and especially, the subterranean water source upon
which people depend. It could also be considered to be an environmental crime
not to characterize and contain as much as necessary, all of the contaminated
waste in the unlined pits, shafts, and trenches at Area G.
For the sake of future generations, we urge you to use your powerful positions to
do whatever is necessary to access sufficient funding from DOE in order to
adequately characterize and remediate the Area G legacy dump sites concurrently
with implementation of other milestones of the Los Alamos Environmental
Management Life Cycle Cleanup Plan, in spite of the weak and unenforceable
2016 DOE/NMED Consent Order.
Again, when your constituents learn about the cleanup issues at LANL, they
almost universally want cleanup to be comprehensive, and with enforceable
deadlines. They also tend to support the idea of redirecting federal funding for
“plutonium pit” manufacturing, which generates the radioactive waste to begin
with, to projects which expand and expedite cleanup. Real comprehensive
cleanup at Area G would create many jobs in our poverty stricken state, and even
more importantly serve the well-being of future generations.
The RCLC and our entire New Mexico Congressional Delegation should have
protested the 2016 CO and should be currently working to restore, strengthen
and enforce the provisions that were “revised” out of the 2005-2015 CO.
The last subject we would like you to address on behalf of Taoseños is the idea of
LANL’s economic impact on New Mexico and Northern New Mexico in particular.
Recently, LANL released a statement that was widely published, claiming that
LANL has a $3.1 billion impact on the State of New Mexico.
An economic impact study citing “independent research from the University of
New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research” (BBER) was released
Monday, Jan 14, 2019 by LANL, stating that the Lab “had an average annual
economic impact of 3.1 billion from 2015-2107.” The study was commissioned
and funded by LANL to estimate its economic impacts on the State of New Mexico
for FY 2009 using Impact Analysis for Planning (IMPLAN) Version 3 Economic
These types of studies are flawed, however, as they are not cost/benefit analyses.
They do not consider opportunity costs or alternative uses. They ignore negative
multiplier effects. The BBER study is an inaccurate assessment, and in real terms,
the fact remains that the State of New Mexico as a whole has not actually gotten
richer from the enormous amounts of federal taxpayer funds being sent to LANL.
The study provides information about money going into LANL, or cost, but fails to
demonstrate specifically how the people in the state benefit from all of that
taxpayer money. In fact, New Mexico continues to decline or at best, flatline in
GDP and median income, while hitting a new low of highest child poverty rate in
the country. Los Alamos County, on the other hand, continues to grow in wealth and currently remains one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. So, the
question is, how can we account for this disparity?
Thank you so much and we look forward to your response.