High profile visitors in LA this week

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By Arin McKenna

Los Alamos should be bustling this week. 

Senator Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., makes an appearance Monday and 50 members of the Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) arrive for a peer exchange Wednesday.

The Los Alamos Historical Society hosts Bingaman at the Los Alamos Historical Museum Monday, thanks to the efforts of executive director Heather McClenahan.

“The American Association of Museums encourages its members to invite their congressional delegates to visit,” McClenahan said. “When I was in Washington to testify for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, I invited Sen. Bingaman to come.”

Bingaman will give an update on the status of the park legislation at the event. 

Council Chair Sharon Stover will introduce the senator and present him with a plaque to “recognize and applaud the Senator’s 30 years of faithful leadership, friendship and service to Los Alamos County’s citizens.” Bingaman is retiring at the end of this term. The plaque is a duplicate of a bronze commemorative plaque that will be placed at the new NEDO Smart House.

Council also voted Tuesday to designate Aug. 13 “Senator Jeff Bingaman Day.” 

Los Alamos Historical Society President Ron Wilkins, Vice President Michael Wheeler, Bandelier National Monument Superintendent Jason Lott and Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce Member Services Coordinator Katy Korkos are also scheduled to speak.

The event takes place at 1 p.m. Monday at the Los Alamos Historical Museum. The public is welcome, but space will be extremely limited. 

The last time the ECA had a meeting in Los Alamos was when the Los Alamos Fire Department shared what it had learned during the Cerro Grande fire with firefighters from the various communities with Department of Energy (DOE) facilities.

The ECA is a membership organization of local governments adjacent to or impacted by DOE activities. Its mission statement reads, “ECA’s mission is to bring together local government officials in DOE impacted communities to share information, establish policy positions and promote community interests in order to effectively address an increasingly complex set of constituent, environmental, regulatory and economic development needs.”

“The Energy Communities Alliance is for speaking with one voice on environmental management budget, DOE budget in general and communication among the communities with their lab management, the DOE/NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) headquarters and our congressional delegation from time to time,” Councilor Frances Berting said. Berting serves as ECA’s treasurer. “Communication and budget are always at the top of our list, because that’s important to all the communities.”

“Our focus largely has to do with funding policies for cleanup and the various priorities within environmental management,” Berting said.

“Also, one of our continuing policies has to do with communication between the laboratories and the communities. We’re trying to get them to tell us what they are going to do that may affect the community.”

Communication is not only important for big policy issues, but for activities that affect the daily life of local communities. “One of the issues had to do with LANL changing their lunch timing here, so that the restaurants were affected. Their lunch hour was shortened so people didn’t have time to come into town,” Berting said.

“Many years ago ECA put forward a resolution that we sent to all of the DOE and NNSA headquarters having to do with communication between the communities and the lab, which didn’t get very far. The offices here said they had never received it,” Berting added. 

ECA’s standing has improved since that time. 

“We have become recognized as speaking for the Energy Community Alliance communities,” Berting said. “At first, we could speak, and we might be listened to and we might not. But now we are looked at as an organization that should be listened to.”

Berting and Stover advocated for ECA to hold a meeting in Los Alamos. The alliance meets several times a year. The gatherings range from an annual conference and intergovernmental exchanges to the smaller peer exchanges on specific topics such as this week’s event. 

The focus of this peer exchange is environmental management. “We have various leaders of the communities and the Department of Energy environmental management section here to discuss this set of interests,” Berting said.

The participants’ visit includes a tour of the lab and historical sites related to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and a visit to Bandelier. The event is sponsored by Energy Solutions, Portage, Los Alamos National Security and Innovation Technology Partnership LLC. 

Thursday’s schedule features a series of round tables on topics such as cleanup and transportation of nuclear waste and how to move forward with land transfers from the DOE. 

David Abelson of Crescent Strategies will lead a discussion titled “Local Government Coalitions: Lessons Learned in Communication, Education and Working Together. “David Abelson is the person who coordinated the Rocky Flats Coalition of Local Governments, and he’s now essentially been the guidance for our local Los Alamos coalition,” Berting said. 

The group will also discuss the Manhattan Project National Historical Park legislation and the preservation of historic properties. ECA has been instrumental in generating support for the national historic park designation. 

 The public is welcome to observe, but only registered members may participate in the discussion.     

Thursdays Round Table

Sunday's news print described the Thursday round table event to be held at the Los Alamos Research Park.
The web version here does not mention this information. The last line describes that the public is welcome, however does not state where.

Please clarify for readers.