BY MAIRE O’NEILL
As the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management Field Office (EM-LA) and N3B gear up for a highly-publicized forum Wednesday evening at Fuller Lodge on legacy waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory, N3B’s regulatory and stakeholder interface manager Frazer Lockhart spoke to the Los Alamos Reporter about his hopes for the forum.
EM-LA has listed the subjects for discussion at the forum as:
- The EM-LA mission at LANL and its core values;
- The community’s role and importance in decisions relating to legacy cleanup; and
- Opportunities to stay involved
The meeting will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Lockhart is no stranger to stakeholder involvement in waste cleanup having led the team that successfully remediated the 6,200-acre Rocky Flats facility outside Denver as the DOE’s manager for the project in under 10 years. Lockhart and the project are recognized for the collaboration between DOE, local government entities, residents, businesses and communities in the process.
“I’m very excited about the meeting. It’s going to present the public here with an opportunity and a request to participate and have meaningful engagement in the decision-making process on the cleanup,” he said.
Lockhart said Environmental Management needs public participation and is interested in it upfront rather than at the end of the cleanup process.
“When public participation is early, it can actually influence the final outcome,” he said. He noted that the cleanup at both Rocky Flats and the Fernald former uranium processing facility near Cincinnati, Ohio were accomplished with the input of the local citizenry as well as elected officials and activist groups.
“This is the start of what needs to be for New Mexico. We’re not so presumptuous as to believe that the formula that worked up in Colorado is going to work here. The interests here are different,” Lockhart said.
Asked about the difference between cleanup on a facility that is closed and a facility with an operating national laboratory onsite like Los Alamos, Lockhart said it’s a good news story.
“Although the fact that the entire Rocky Flats site had closed made it easier from a logistics standpoint and obviously we didn’t have to worry about a weapons area and ongoing Lab activities to schedule around. But the downside was that there were questions about who was going to be the caretaker for the land because there’s no cleanup we do that doesn’t have long-term government responsibilities if only to monitor, and in some cases you may have to protect and even do extra things depending on what remedy is chosen,” he said.
Lockhart said the only way to get to a successful conclusion is to start the discussion process and start to be able to take feedback and shape the discussion in a way that meets the different needs of the stakeholder groups. Although the interests of those groups are very different, common ground can be reached.
“As people begin to understand the competing interests and the trade-offs and the situation the DOE is in while trying to get to the right answer, the situation NMED is in, they really do become part of the solution,” he said. “Wednesday’s meeting is to start to explore what is going to work best for the different interests. Is it big meetings at Fuller Lodge? Is it little groups with specific topics and an expert sitting around a table with maps laid out? There are lots of ways to think about engaging. This meeting is to try and lay out that picture and start to get the feedback of the different interests, of what will help them to engage and be participants in this process.”
Lockhart said people who live in the Los Alamos area are participants whether they like it or not.
“How can we make that participation for you and your interests as effective as it can be? The forum is the first step in a new direction and we think it’s a critical new direction. We’re hoping that the people who are coming to participate will see that change, that they will hear things they haven’t heard before. They’ll have a chance to provide some input in a way they maybe haven’t been able to before, been listened to before,” he said. “This is only a first step. Our contract has nine years left and there’s probably some work to be done after that for someone else to pick up, or maybe we’ll keep doing it. This is a long journey. This is not tomorrow or next month or even next year. This is the first step towards trying to get a public that is participating in a way that works for them and gets that participation into the key decisions that are going to happen up here.”