NMED to lab: No renegotiation of Consent Order

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LANL: Cleanup of facilities curtailed by funding cuts

By John Severance

Discussion about the LANL Consent Order has been rare in a public forum.

But this morning in Santa Fe, New Mexico Environment Department Secretary David Martin gave a presentation to the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities and he made one thing perfectly clear.

“NMED is not renegotiating the Consent Order,” Martin said.

So what is the Consent Order?

An Order of Consent between the New Mexico Environment Department and Los Alamos National Laboratory was signed on March 1, 2005. The Order provides the timetable and requirements for environmental cleanup of hazardous constituents for the laboratory. Following the schedule of the Order, the clean-up program will be completed by 2015.

Cleanup had been buoyed by $212 million in stimulus funding as part of the Recovery Act.

But that funding has dried up.

And the federal government has proposed cutting funding in FY12 for lab cleanup from $360 million to $185 million and for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad; the proposed cuts are $28 million from $228 million to $200 million.

Congress has also proposed eliminating another $28 million for funding in maintenance and repair of state highways.

Martin said NMED is working on revising a schedule for legacy waste cleanup at the lab, “so highest risk projects will be completed first. We are making schedule changes within the order. And NMED is considering how the Consent Order will be impacted by the reprioritization.”

Martin said NMED and LANL have begun communication with lawmakers in Washington and also had discussions with community groups about the Consent Order.

Rep. Jim Hall (R-Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Sandoval Counties) was on hand.

“I was quite pleased with the presentation. Many people regarded the Consent Order as a straight jacket and a club. The ability to respond as new information shows up, we need to be able to address the issues and be able to protect public safety.

“The consent order has to be flexible and that has to be a priority. I totally agree with the governor that her top priority to get Area G waste off the hill. That is absolutely the right answer.”

Outgoing Acting Los Alamos County administrator Randy Autio said, “The concern for Los Alamos County is we saw the powerful effect the stimulus money had on the cleanup on M-DAB (Material Disposal Area B) and other areas on TA-21. Our concerns come with the possible cuts in the federal budget. We have to work with D.C. lawmakers to continue to get funding for cleanup.”

More details on Martin’s presentation will be in Sunday’s Los Alamos Monitor.

Other topics discussed during the meeting included:    
Los Alamos County Chair Sharon Stover introduced new County Administrator Harry Burgess to the board.
Kurt Steinhaus, the director of Community Programs, gave an update on the Pajarito Project concerning the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility at LANL. More details will be reported in upcoming editions of the Los Alamos Monitor.
Autio presented a status update on the Joint Partners Agreement.