RCLC Does Not Represent The Taos Constituency

Commentary.jpg

BY KAY MATTHEWS
Editor
La Jicarita

The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities has ties to some of the same people and businesses as that of the Rocky Flats Coalition, and this connection may well influence on-going cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the transfer of contaminated lands from Department of Energy responsibility, some of which has already occurred.

David Abelson of Crescent Strategies, brought in to facilitate the LANL Coalition back in 2011, was the executive director of the Rocky Flats Coalition of Local Governments, and several Washington-based D.C. businesses that advised the Rocky Flats Coalition are working with the LANL Coalition. They all assisted in the effort to convert Rocky Flats to a wildlife refuge, an outcome which required much lower standards for clean-up than, for example, human residency. This created a credibility gap that the mission of the RCLC is to lobby for cleanup of LANL.

We’ve already seen lower standards for LANL clean-up with the redrafting of the 2005 Consent Decree between LANL and the New Mexico Environment Department. The RCLC “acquiesced” to this less restrictive legal agreement with New Mexico state government on cleanup of the Lab’s so-called “legacy waste” from decades of nuclear weapons work.

The mission statement of the RCLC, says, “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 (LANL). The Regional Coalition is comprised of elected and tribal officials representing their local communities to ensure national decisions incorporate local needs and interests.”

The RCLC is redundant. We already have a congressional delegation that has, and continues to be, an aggressive cheerleader for funding for LANL. If the RCLC is truly comprised of officials who represent their local communities it should incorporate into the language of the Joint Powers Agreement, language that reflects what its constituents continue to advocate for.

Specifically, that language would be to change Section 2. A. (ii) “advocacy of long term stable funding for non-weapons-related LANL missions.” 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 percent or $57,000,000 is allocated for all other sciences combined. In April 2019, the Director Eric Vasquez stated in the Taos Town Council Chambers that the RCLC does not have a position on pit production.

It is premature for members of the RCLC to vote on the revised JPA until audits of the organization have been completed. As we all know, under the administration of now Rep. Andrea Romero, the RCLC violated restrictions on expenditures and reimbursements, some of which have yet to paid back. The RCLC was audited by a private agency that found numerous violations and a state audit has raised additional issues, some of which are still outstanding, such as the possible $372,000 “clawback” of taxpayer money, in its failure to abide by the terms of the Department of Energy grant. The State Auditor is considering even further expansion of audits into years beyond the six already ordered.

 Many citizens and newspapers, including the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Journal North, and the Rio Grande Sun called for the organization’s demise. Yet it has been reconstituted under a new contractor, Chicanos Por La Causa New Mexico, that itself has a dubious past, including that of CEO Roger Montoya, who had his business license revoked by the NM Public Education Department in 2012. The contractor has also been involved in numerous failed businesses, especially under its previous name, Siete del Norte.

The RCLC does not represent the Taos constituency. I would venture to say that most Taos citizens have never heard of it. This is the first meeting held in Taos in several years. The public comment period at previous RCLC meetings has been sorely limited. As I said previously, the RCLC is redundant and our taxpayer dollars are wasted supporting it.

I urge you to hold public meetings to ask your constituents if this organization truly represents their concerns about weapons production at LANL, particularly in light of the proposed pit production that will put our communities at risk. 

Note: La Jicarita is an online non-profit paper that focuses on the historical and contemporary conflicts over natural resources that threaten the viability of traditional communities in el norte: loss of agricultural lands to development; transfer of water out of agricultural use; loss of grasslands to forest encroachment; loss of biodiversity due to fire suppression; lack of community access to forest resources; and the continuing decline in community stability due to lack of economic opportunity and attendant social problems. Editor-in-Chief Kay Matthews read the above letter into the record at the Aug, 16 RCLC meeting in Taos.