A rose by any other name …

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Anti-nuclear groups: Some may get funding from DOE via NMCF

By John Severance

It all depends on how one looks at it.

Some are saying the Department of Energy is actually paying some anti-nuclear groups to raise awareness about environmental cleanup.

The anti-nuclear groups are saying they would never receive any money from DOE and they are receiving funds through grants provided by the New Mexico Community Foundation.

But here is the fact.

Through a partnership with the Department of Energy, the New Mexico Community Foundation launched the Community Involvement Fund last year.

And according to the NMCF website, the five-year agreement was intended to increase public awareness and participation in the DOE’s environmental cleanup at nuclear waste sites nationwide.

In 2011, grants totaled $797,991 with recipient organizations in the states of New Mexico, Vermont, Idaho, New York, Nevada, Georgia, Tennessee, California, Maryland and Washington.

Taking advantage of the grants was a variety of anti-nuclear groups in this state.

They include the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability in Santa Fe, Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping in Albuquerque and the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque. Partnering with SRIC are the Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Watch New Mexico in Santa Fe.

Other grantees around the country were from California, Washington, Vermont, Maryland, New York and Idaho.

This year, the amount available for granting in 2012 is $300,000 in the entire U.S..

Susan Gordon, the Santa Fe director for the Alliance of Nuclear Accountability, sits on the grant review committee.

“The grant review committee makes recommendations to the New Mexico Community Foundation on the grantees, but the NMCF is the final decision maker.

“DOE has no input on who grantees are or how the decisions are made. The grants, therefore, are from NMCF and not DOE.”

Jay Coghlan scoffed at the idea that Nuclear Watch New Mexico would receive funding from DOE.

“We would never accept money from DOE, even if it was ever offered (which it won’t be). In contrast, we have received one related grant from the New Mexico Community Foundation, in which DOE has nothing to do with selecting grantees.

“Nuclear Watch New Mexico cannot be bought or compromised by DOE, should there be any implication that we could be.

“Additionally, our idea of what cleanup truly is differs radically from that of DOE/LANL. Those agencies want to just cap and cover (perhaps better put as “hide and hope”) the massive volume of buried radioactive wastes at Area G.”

Greg Mello, meanwhile, of the Los Alamos Study Group weighed in on the funding situation.

“I also do want to stress that we have to be creative, and that I believe groups like ours should be considered serious policy organizations, with national security uppermost in our minds.

“On other issues, like economic development, we do need to work together to build what we need, but that has to be tempered by the ability to hurt or there will be no respect.  In any case I don’t think that a cooperative approach has a place in relation to the weapons labs, which are and will always remain for the foreseeable future nuclear weapons facilities run by behemoth, secretive, greedy and selfish private contractors who care about themselves first, second and third — who in turn mostly run NNSA and DOE.”

According to the NCMF website, “This money will be awarded for proposals that primarily serve to enhance public involvement in EM decisions, processes and activities and related regulatory decisions. Funding may also be used to pay for technical expertise, including consultants, to provide technical analysis regarding EM regulatory decisions.”

Denise Gonzales, the director of Community Philanthropy at NMCF, said every group has fulfilled the requirements in 2011 for receiving the grants.

“Last year, around 30 non-profits applied and about half of them were anti-nuclear groups,” Gonzales said. “The grants are open to any non-profit that does work that involves the communities in learning about what is going on at the sites.”

Gonzales said, “We see ourselves as being in a transparent and neutral position. We actively promote citizen groups and schools to apply for grants. We promote people who want information to make informative choices.”

According to the website, “these organizations are doing a tremendous job to educate the national public about the impact of contaminants released into the environment during the cleanup process, and championing viable alternatives.”

Gonzales said NMCF is using the funding to extend grants to qualified nonprofit organizations nationwide that represent communities and residents that are most likely to be affected by the DOE environmental cleanup process and decisions.

“As community representatives, grantees will be responsible for researching and reporting on environmental management projects, activities and decisions at cleanup sites in or around their communities. If the project is successful, the funding has the potential to be renewed by the DOE for five consecutive years up to a total value of $5 million.”

All of this has some history.

As part of a 1998 court settlement DOE and 39 plaintiffs (nonprofit peace and environmental groups around the country) made a $6.25 million settlement. The plaintiffs then established a $6.25 million Citizens’ Monitoring and Technical Assessment Fund (MTA Fund) to provide money to non-profit, non-governmental organizations and Federally recognized tribal governments working on issues related to the nuclear weapons complex.

The fund was established to help those groups procure technical and scientific assistance to perform technical and scientific reviews and analyses of environmental management activities at DOE sites. These grants may also support dissemination of the technical and scientific reviews and analyses undertaken with monies from the MTA Fund, but cannot be used for litigation, lobbying, general administrative support or fundraising.

And in that list of original 39 grantees is the Los Alamos Study Group.

The deadline for the 2012 grant is fast approaching.

Applications and attachments must be submitted by email to dgonzales@nmcf.org by 6 p.m. Sept. 12; any applications after the date will not be considered.

The NMCF prefers that grant proposals be sent electronically, but if that is not possible, send the application to New Mexico Community Foundation, Denise Gonzales, Director of Community Philanthropy, 502 W. Cordova Road, Ste. 1, Santa Fe, N.M. 87505, 505-820-6860.