The New Mexico Environment Department contacted local environmental groups yesterday, offering to break their silence on the topic of cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
As SFR reported in a story printed yesterday, NMED and LANL recently told a citizens' group that they would not be discussing cleanup of Area G, the lab's biggest waste dump, or anything else to do with a legal document called the consent order that governs cleanup at the lab, until further notice. The silence was attributed to efforts by NMED and LANL to align the consent order with Gov. Susana Martinez' environmental priorities.
Los Alamos Study Group Executive Director Greg Mello and other anti-nuclear proliferation and environmental activists questioned whether this information "embargo" would violate federal law that requires public participation in any amendments to the consent order.
"They're not listening to their better angels," Mello told SFR.
NMED spokesman Jim Winchester told SFR that there was no information embargo, and that NMED would release information about Area G and the consent order as soon as there were new developments to report. But that day appears to have come sooner than expected—the same day SFR published its story calling attention to potential legal problems with the "embargo."
The date of the meeting between NMED and environmental groups including Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety has not been set, says CCNS Executive Director Joni Arends, but may be as soon as next week.
NMED and LANL's silence about Area G and the consent order came at a pivotal time, as LANL recently released its assessment of cleanup methods for Area G, choosing a method decried by environmentalists as inadequate. The assessment, released in September, chooses to cover up Area G's waste dumps rather than excavate them, citing cost concerns with the latter plan.