On June 27, 1989, the Secretary of Energy announced a 10-point initiative addressing the need for the Department of Energy (DOE) to improve its accountability in the areas of public health, safety, and environmental protection. The initiative allowed states with DOE facilities direct access to those facilities and provided funding to underwrite the costs of state oversight of DOE environmental monitoring programs. To implement this program, the DOE entered agreements, collectively known as the Agreements-in-Principle (AIP), with various states. The AIP is a five-year commitment between DOE and the State of New Mexico.
In October 1990, Governor Garrey Carruthers signed the Environmental Oversight and Monitoring Agreement between the US DOE and the State of New Mexico, effective from October 1990 through September 1995. Under the agreement, the DOE granted the State of New Mexico funds to carry out its responsibilities. The agreement focused on state oversight of environmental impacts at four DOE facilities: Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) and the Inhalation Toxicology Research Institute in Albuquerque, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in Los Alamos and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad.
Oversight and monitoring activities included assessments of air quality monitoring for WIPP and SNL, ground water monitoring programs at LANL and SNL and, and off-site radioactivity surveillance systems at WIPP. The results were published along with documents transmitting technical comments and concerns relative to specific program areas such as environmental restoration.
In September 1995, Governor Gary Johnson signed the second agreement between the DOE and the State of New Mexico.
By the time of this agreement, staff members working under the agreement had been consolidated into one Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), the DOE Oversight Bureau. The Oversight Bureau maintained offices in Santa Fe, White Rock, and in Albuquerque on Kirtland Air Force Base. Oversight investigators monitored on-site discharges and emissions, water quality, air quality, and on and off-site radioactivity.
In November 2000, Governor Gary Johnson signed the third AIP between the State of New Mexico and the DOE.
Oversight investigators continued environmental monitoring activities at DOE facilities. They collected split samples to compare to analytical results obtained by the facilities, and conducted independent monitoring to assess pathways for contaminant migration not routinely monitored by the facilities.
Oversight staff members monitored environmental restoration programs at DOE facilities and provided recommendations to the DOE and government regulatory agencies. They accompanied inspectors and government auditors of waste management practices at DOE facilities and participated in site task forces to address waste management issues.
Oversight representatives participated in periodic meetings between DOE and NMED to develop an integrated schedule; to prioritize environmental management, environmental compliance, and permitting activities for the upcoming years; and to determine the need for cleanup at inactive waste sites.
The coordination of activities with local, state, and tribal governments is a priority of the Oversight Bureau. A routine part of the bureau’s work involves responding to community concerns and the sharing of findings with the public. This is accomplished through public meetings and workshops, publication of technical reports, annual reports, newsletters, and the posting of information on the Internet.
In 2004, DOE and the State of New Mexico joined in discussions to establish a State of New Mexico Oversight office in Carlsbad, NM for the oversight of DOE activities at the WIPP. Utilizing the same development path as the oversight offices at LANL and SNL, NMED established a basic AIP with DOE. In late 2005, a revised AIP was developed between the State of New Mexico and the DOE. The WIPP Oversight office is to be funded at $600K per year through end of the 2008 State fiscal year (June 2008).
In October 2005, the agreement covering LANL and SNL was extended for a two year period until September 30, 2007. The agreement was again extended until the end of the 2008 federal fiscal year. With the beginning of federal fiscal year 2009 the AIP will remain in effect for five years, expiring on September 30, 2013.
Beginning on August 1, 2012, the Department of Energy awarded a 5-year grant to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to conduct environmental monitoring and surveillance at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The objectives of the oversight project are: 1) to provide a mechanism through which the NMED can provide independent, third-party, environmental monitoring and oversight of various DOE activities for WIPP site-related work; 2) to provide the public of the State of New Mexico with accurate, reliable information pertaining to oversight and monitoring activities covered under the grant; 3) to assure the citizens of New Mexico that the public health, safety and environment are being protected through existing programs at WIPP; and 4) to facilitate a better understanding by local, tribal governments and the general public of the State of New Mexico’s perspective on environmental impacts and health risks, if any, associated with past and current operations at WIPP.
The Department of Energy awarded a new 5-year grant to the Oversight Bureau, effective October 1, 2013, to conduct environmental monitoring and surveillance at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Sandia National Laboratories/New Mexico (SNL/NM). The objectives of the oversight project are: 1) to provide a mechanism through which the NMED can provide independent, third-party, environmental monitoring and oversight of various DOE activities for LANL and SNL site-related work; 2) to provide the public of the State of New Mexico with accurate, reliable information pertaining to oversight and monitoring activities covered under the grant; 3) to assure the citizens of New Mexico that the public health, safety and environment are being protected through existing programs both at LANL and SNL; and 4) to facilitate a better understanding by local, tribal governments and the general public of the State of New Mexico’s perspective on environmental impacts and health risks, if any, associated with past and current operations at LANL and SNL.