2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: uxogypfy@bellsouth.net
Date: 23 Jan 2003 15:13:23 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: Re: [CPEO-MEF] Risk-Based End State policy at Energy Department
Thank you for writing what (my opinion) was one of the most well written
(obviously you are a long standing DOE Stakeholder and have a 'handle' on
the situation from experience), explained and thought out summaries on the
DOE department and their 'methodologies'.  It brought a much greater
understanding to me about a great many 'smoke clouds'.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Lenny Siegel" <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
To: "Military Environmental Forum" <cpeo-military@igc.topica.com>
Sent: Thursday, January 23, 2003 3:16 AM
Subject: Re: [CPEO-MEF] Risk-Based End State policy at Energy Department

> [The following is a response to my posting about the U.S. Department of
> Energy's draft policy and guidance on Risk-Based Cleanup, from a DOE
> Stakeholder Of Long Standing. - LS]
> January 23, 2003
> Lenny,
> Your analysis of the DOE's so-called "new" risk based cleanup policy is
> accurate, but understated.
> The DOE's "risk-based cleanup plan" is essentially the same as before,
> but less.  DOE has long argued that "it knows best" and that the current
> cleanup plans are not adequately "risk based", but are rather based on
> mere blind adherence to "bureaucratic rules and legal requirement that
> are not technically based."  This air of technical superiority that DOE
> assumes seems like a method to distract attention from efforts to simply
> weaken cleanup requirements. It is like a magician's trick that works
> because he used his banter to distract your eyes from what his hands are
> doing.  This is the argument made by Leo Duffy from 1989 to 1993, who
> sought input on his risk-based priority system (and some interpreted as
> an "open season" on compliance agreements), while DOE field staff capped
> land fills and seepage basins across the country (e.g., S-3 ponds at the
> Oak Ridge site in Tennessee).  This is also the argument made by Tom
> Grumbly as he:
> * Launched a series of initiatives the engage regulators and the
> National Academy of Science,
> * Hired one of the countries leading risk experts to head a new office
> of risk management,
> * Carried out extensive collaborative risk evaluation of dozens of sites,
> * Revised many cleanup agreements to realign priorities,
> * Built trust with communities and regulators so people were open to
> listening to DOE,
> * Undertook a multiyear dialogue with state regulators to develop a
> strategy for dealing with mixed waste based on broad information sharing
> for overall elimination and sharing of risk, and
> * Conducted for the first time an extensive "baseline" to determine the
> estimated cost and scope of the DOE cleanup, thereby opening the closet
> to let the skeletons out for discussion.
> Similar to Leo Duffy's initiatives, DOE field staff continued seeking to
> elude cleanup requirements in many cases.
> The O'Leary/Grumbly era of openness was followed by the late Al Alm's
> efforts to take the logical next step called the "Ten Year Plan"  (later
> dubbed "Accelerated Cleanup:  Paths to Closure.")  He too tried (with
> mixed success) to get field staff to engage in meaningful discussions
> with regulators to realign priorities so that money was directed to
> reducing risks and not to facility maintenance (e.g., replacing roofs on
> building that should be torn down).  His plan was premised on the
> recognition, borne of earlier baseline analyses, that the sooner you
> complete cleanup the lower the cost because less will be spent on annual
> overhead costs.
> This is essentially the plan that is more in place today, although you
> would never guess from the crass and blatant PR propaganda that is
> spewed out almost daily from the DOE.  According to their new public
> relations campaign (in lieu of rigorous technical analysis), this is all
> a new idea, rather that the continuation of the strategy that evolved
> from the efforts under Tom Grumbly and Al Alm.  The Soviet-style
> reeducation campaign is an insult to the hundreds of DOE employees,
> consultants and state and EPA regulators who labored for nearly ten
> years to put the program on a sounder financial, technical, and
> institutional footing.  It also misses the logical next step that was
> needed:  deeper contract reform that tied performance and accountability
> to bonuses, and sought to hire contractors who were in businesses to
> environmental projects.  This was almost uniquely the case with awarding
> the Rocky Flats contract to Kaiser-Hill, which is comprised of people
> who have years o environmental experience and whose fortunes live and
> die with their performance in the environmental arena, not aerospace and
> defense contracts.  Instead of adding to the basic risk-based planning
> efforts from 1989-2001 by emphasizing greater field implementation, DOE
> chose to wrap the old plan in new press releases and superficial
> non-rigorous, non-analytical and deeply flawed reports (e.g.,
> "Top-To-Bottom Review" and "risk-Based Cleanup Strategy") and cut out
> the critical public participation and enduring commitments that are a
> sine quo non of a risk-based strategy.
> Aside from the lack of public participation, there is one key ingredient
> that is clearly new (i.e., absent) in DOE's "new" strategy:  there is
> little recognition of the value of effective long-term stewardship.
> Instead, as you note, there is only passing reference to a small part of
> "When contaminants are expected to persist but can be isolated, risk
> should include effective and transparent institutional controls to
> maintain isolation. Long term monitoring and surveillance methods must
> be designed to assure that the contaminants remain sequestered and human
> health and the environment are protected."
> Missing is any discussion or planning for:
> * Technical plans for carrying out long-term stewardship, mechanism for
> enforcing the "promises" to maintain long-term stewardship,
> * Establishment of needed institutions (e.g., how can local governments
> be involved in the planning for remedies that will ultimately rely on
> local land use controls),
> * Reliable funding sources,
> * Investments in new technologies so that communities are not abandoned
> with 20th Century technologies for waste that will last until the 30th
> Without these efforts, any containment remedy is no remedy, and any
> promise for "institutional controls" is an empty promise.  As one
> long-time state expert on the issue has observed:  "Institutional
> Controls are fine, except there are no institutions and no controls.
> Other than that they are fine."
> This is the only thing new about DOE's so-called "new" risk based
> strategy and policy - the elimination of the DOE previous efforts at
> establishing a long-term stewardship program.  Last year (FY 2003) the
> DOE's long-term stewardship office (aka "EM-51") was essentially shut
> down by the new regime's cutting out all funding for analytical support.
>  This year's budget proposal (FY 2004, announced in a few weeks) will
> finish the job by eliminating entirely the Office of Long-term
> Stewardship, which had nominally existed, even though it had been
> defunded and sidelined from any meaningful role in DOE's "new" strategy.
>   The line where there had been a funding level indicated for the Office
> of Long-term Stewardship, albeit zero funding last year, is expected to
> be missing entirely in the Bush Administration's FY 2004.  Unless an
> astute reader of the budget knew what to look for, it will not be
> missed.  The "function" is slated to move to the DOE's "Office of Worker
> and Community Transition" newly renamed the "Office of Legacy
> Management" and managed by a political appointee (Mike Owen) with no
> experience or connection to EM issues, and will be cutoff from any
> relationship to the cleanup program.  Contrary to every analysis of the
> need for institutional controls (e.g., PEIS study released in Oct 2001),
> DOE's reorganization may result in long-term stewardship and
> institutional controls NOT being considered during remedy selection
> (except at the insistence of regulators or initiative of rogue DOE
> employees and contractors).  The Long-Term Stewardship office will not
> even be represented in the room where EM decisions are made, much less
> have a seat at the table.  The new office will likely be dominated by
> its other issues such as worker pensions and grants to community reuse
> organizations for reindustrialization (i.e., NDAA 3161).
> There are certainly some potential upsides to reorganizing LTS into a
> separate office outside of EM.  The new office will have the
> independence to refuse to accept management responsibility unless
> certain conditions are met.  In fact, recent "transfer criteria"
> released from DOE could provide an extremely constructive template for
> making those transfer decisions.  The problem could be that the new
> organization will have a tough time refusing to accept transferred sites
> since each site transferred can be claimed as a "cleanup."  There will
> be enormous pressure to shift responsibility for sites to the new legacy
> office and thereby label the site as "cleaned up by the bean-counters at
> headquarters.  On the other hand, it is not as though the old LTS Office
> buried under EM's Science and Technology Office was a bureaucratic
> powerhouse where it was located.  So, the new office had some chances to
> succeed if there is sufficient internal and external support so that it
> is not forced to take on unfunded liabilities, as DOE has done to so
> many states and communities.  We'll see.  As the Missourians around the
> ill-fated Weldon Spring site say:  "Show Me."
> Unfortunately, the "new DOE", using partially retreaded version of old
> ideas seems to value writing breathless HQ political prose about
> accelerated cleanup rather than investing in the complex technical and
> institutional legwork and management heavy lifting work to accomplish
> real cleanup in the field.  Again, there are many pros and cons to the
> new reorganization and it could be a net positive.  More public
> involvement could have helped identify and avoid the pitfalls and
> emphasize the positive.
> Unfortunately this attempt at PR semantic detoxification, rather than
> honest technical work in the field, will fail, and communities and
> taxpayers will ultimately pay the price.  The contamination will not go
> anywhere; it will only spread and become more expensive the deal with
> later.  The records that are lost (location of residual contamination,
> levels of cleanup achieved, etc.) will need to be recreated at great
> cost.  Perhaps most damaging, public trust, now broken, will take many
> years to rebuild, and a rational risk-based cleanup strategy that
> incorporates the necessary long-term stewardship effort will only be
> years away as communities remember the broken promises of the DOE and
> insist that the site be cleanup completely, however costly or
> technically difficult or irrational.  Based on the "new" DOE plan,
> however, the mistrust will be completely rational.  The old adage
> applies here:  "Fooled me once shame on you, fooled me twice, shame on
> me."
> Signed,
> A DOE Stakeholder Of Long Standing
> --
> Lenny Siegel
> Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
> c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
> Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
> Fax: 650/961-8918
> <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
> http://www.cpeo.org
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