ELI Primary Menu

Skip to main content

Long Term Stewardship of Department of Energy Sites Presents Challenges For Local Government

March 2001

The Environmental Law Institute® (ELI) and the Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) today issued a report that points out the difficulties facing the Department of Energy (DOE) and state, local, and tribal governments in effectively managing lands that may be harmful to human health and the environment. The Role of Local Governments in Long-Term Stewardship at Department of Energy Facilities is the result of a two-year ELI/ECA study of DOE sites where contamination will remain even after DOE completes its remediation efforts.

At over 100 sites across the country DOE is cleaning up the radioactive and chemical contamination legacy of the Cold War. Local governments will be relied upon to implement essential elements of plans to protect the public and the environment from hazards that will remain after DOE completes its cleanup efforts. This report examines the capacity of local governments to participate in the long-term stewardship decision making.

ELI and ECA performed case studies on three prominent DOE sites that have significant lingering contamination, including radioactive materials and hazardous chemicals. Sites studied include Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge Reservation. At each of these sites, DOE developed cleanup plans that will reduce the risks due to hazardous substances at the sites, but that will leave some hazards in place.

The report includes 47 findings and 31 policy recommendations developed as a result of over 100 in-depth interviews with a wide variety of local, state, tribal, and federal government representatives, national experts on long-term stewardship, and citizens. The policy recommendations should assist in ensuring that DOE, EPA, state, local, and tribal governments work together to employ the most effective long-term stewardship strategies.

A key finding of the report is that although the remediation decisions by DOE and the regulators rely upon long-term stewardship, the long-term stewardship processes are not fully developed or understood. The report calls for DOE and regulators to identify the parties, costs, and processes involved with long-term stewardship of these contaminated sites. Further, the report asserts that although local governments have the legal authority to implement many legal controls that can be used to protect human health and the environment, more effective cooperation between the DOE and local governments is needed.

The study was conducted in cooperation with DOE, which also provided funding for the study.

Copies of The Role of Local Governments in Long-Term Stewardship at Department of Energy Facilities are available to the media by contacting pressrequest@eli.org. The report can be downloaded for free at the Institute’s Web site, http://www.eli.org.

The Energy Communities Alliance is the membership organization of local governments that are adjacent to or impacted by DOE activities.