35-year resident of Taos County
The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC) will hold a public board meeting in Taos on Fri., August 16 from 1:30-4:30 PM. location to be determined no later than Tues., Aug. 12.
The RCLC was formed in 2011 in order to represent the interests of Northern New Mexico populations surrounding the lab. It lobbies state and federal government representatives in regard to activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their impact on these communities.
The RCLC is funded entirely by taxpayer money, most of which is supplied by the Department of Energy and the Los Alamos County.
This is an opportunity for Taosenos to learn about this little-known entity that speaks for them at the state and federal level and to hear what board members have to say about the Lab’s activities and its impact on citizens. The last time an RCLC board meeting was held in Taos was more than two years ago, in May of 2017.
Our Taos Board members are Council Member Darien Fernandez and County Commissioner Mark Gallegos.
Since early 2018, the organization has been undergoing an upheaval which has resulted in changes to its governing document, the Joint Powers Agreement (JPA), regarding its fiscal policies.
The new Executive Director Eric Vasquez is working to reform the fiscal policies and resolve violations and improper spending issues found as a result of several recent audits.
These are very important improvements and we appreciate this work and the transparency being demonstrated during the process!
However, some regular folks who try to follow the activities of the RCLC on behalf of the public interest still have concerns about certain other RCLC policies which are expressed in the JPA and elsewhere on its website.
During its formation, a December 2010 article in The Santa Fe Reporter reported, “The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities was spearheaded by Los Alamos County Council to rally local governments’ support for lobbying Washington to fund certain types of LANL projects.” and “Los Alamos County Councilman Mike Wheeler tells SFR the purpose of the coalition is to ‘protect and preserve jobs, diversity, and cleanup efforts at the laboratory.’ He says the coalition should support development of non-weapons related research at LANL, ….”
Unfortunately, neither language found in the JPA nor elsewhere on the website differentiates non-(nuclear)weapons-related work from LANL’s primary mission.
The lion’s share of LANL’s funding, over $1,900,000,000 for FY 2019 alone, is allocated for its primary mission of nuclear weapons activities, including plutonium pit production, while less than 3% or $57,000,000 is allocated for all other sciences combined. Many people worry that the RCLC’s reluctance to use language like “non-nuclear weapons-related work” anywhere in its language demonstrates that the organization actually does support LANL’s nuclear weapons mission or feels that it must keep quiet about this uncomfortable issue in order to maintain itself. The Board should have the right to specify which missions it does support within its own governing document or elsewhere.
Further, the DOE doesn’t need the RCLC to help LANL get its spectacular annual nuclear weapons funding from Congress.
We can’t know for sure, but in spite of our well-meaning board members’ honest desire to represent their constituents’ interests, there is no speaking with one voice on their behalf if the organization supports, even by omission, the sustainment, development and proliferation of the world’s ultimate weapons of mass destruction.
When asked at the April 22 Town of Taos workshop meeting, Director Eric Vasquez told the people that the RCLC does not have a position on pit production. The RCLC should reassure those it represents by reflecting this position, or lack thereof, in writing, somewhere for the public to see.
Please try to attend to ask questions, make a public comment or simply to observe and learn. The public comment period is scheduled for 20 minutes early in the meeting; sign-up is required and is limited to three minutes per person.
From the RCLC’s homepage: “The Regional Coalition is a conduit for Northern New Mexico communities to make a direct impact on local, state and federal government decision-making in regional economic development and nuclear cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratories.” and “Founded in 2011, the Regional Coalition works in partnership to create one voice to ensure national decisions incorporate local needs and concerns. The organization’s focus is community and economic development, site employment, environmental remediation, and adequate funding for LANL.”
The agenda is posted on the RCLC website. https://regionalcoalition.org/