Tales of Our TimesBy JOHN BARTLITNew Mexico Citizensfor Clean Air & WaterAny Big, New Works Nearby Looms LargeList every environmental fear that people have. Now imagine a miracle occurs, so the order of concerns listed is exactly accurate. No doubt the worry that tops the list is having a big plant built within a straight shot of our own house. Being a boon for the environment makes no difference.The plant will change the surroundings, even if the air and water stay exactly as they were, which is not likely. The bald truth of a big new plant is easy to see, and everyone sees it.From there the story grows muddled. Threads of complexity tangle with each other. Water use can add worries. Troubling sounds and smells are hard to figure out and easy to wonder about. Plants may run at night. Traffic is knotty.There are air emissions to assess. The assessments specified by federal rules say the emissions, with required controls, are within legal limits. Thus, laws require the proper air quality bureau to grant permits to build and operate the plant. Still … there are air emissions, beginning with dust, many tens of tons a year. Everyone would be happier if there weren’t any. One can never be sure about all aspects of emissions, their effects, how they interact with other emissions, or how they affect varied people.Our knowledge of what is safe fills volumes. The law requires that margins of safety be added in. Yet undoubted safety is never possible. Double the margins of safety, and certainty is still beyond our reach. The mixtures of pollutants are endless.The variations in people complicate matters. Some suffer ill effects from walking down the detergent aisle at the grocery store. These people are simply people. Their physical systems merely work in that way differently from most. Still, we need detergent aisles.Studies, judgments, and emission limits are forever a work-in-progress, thus are forever partly unfinished. New understanding keeps coming, though never as fast as questions come. Oddly enough, the probing course of science can seem like an evil intent. The channels that run in institutions make the news. Motives are suspect. The thread ends of suspicion “confirm” that a finely woven tapestry of conspiracy has spread across the land.Once motives are the issue, they suck the air out of the hard details. Cynicism burns up more time and energy than emissions and safety combined. Suspicious plots get more play in the news than the environment itself.This story line occurs in so many places that it has its own name. We know it as “Not-In-My-Backyard,” or “NIMBY” for short. On one hand, NIMBY can be seen as the most selfish and antisocial of behaviors. On the other hand, it can be seen as the most normal and sincere of behaviors. Since we are all human, it is both at once.The pursuit of a wholesome environment is central to NIMBY conflicts. Yet, how much “greenness” a large new project has, or supplies does not alter NIMBY feelings. A new plant for turning biowastes into biofuel will spark the same local concerns as an oil-handling facility of equal size. Perhaps more. The response is not a sign of duplicity, but natural realities.All plants have permitted effects we would rather not have. Emissions or no, a large plant spoils the old neighborhood. Seen from our home, a “green” plant is seldom green. As a rule, “green” plants have the old ash gray on charcoal look of a factory.I describe a large public problem that grows. I observe its roots and how it evolves. You, the jury, will decide how the same scene looks to you.Seeing the nature of a problem does not solve the problem nor change viewpoints. Yet, I believe delving into details is better than hiding them underneath the feelings called NIMBY.
The DOE Office of Legacy Management is set to assume long-term stewardship responsibility for 70 sites — represented by the yellow dots in this map — on the Nevada Test and Training Range where the EM Nevada Program completed environmental corrective actions in accordance with the Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order. Courtesy/DOEDOE News:LAS VEGAS, Nev — The EM Nevada Program and DOE Office of Legacy Management (LM) are nearing completion of a transfer of long-term stewardship responsibilities for 70 sites on the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), including the Tonopah Test Range (TTR).The transfer from EM to LM — among EM’s ambitious priorities for 2020 — is expected to occur by Sept. 30.“In partnership with the Office of Legacy Management and our lead environmental program services contractor, Navarro Research and Engineering, the EM Nevada Program is proud to be advancing the transfer of these sites,” EM Nevada Program Manager Rob Boehlecke said. “We fully expect to complete the transfer on time and on budget. This progress supports our federal cleanup mission and shows firsthand what can be accomplished when a dedicated team works together to accomplish a goal.”The transfer process also involves the review and transmission of more than 7,200 documents and records from the EM Nevada Program to LM. Once the transfer is complete, LM will assume responsibility for long-term surveillance and maintenance of the sites in perpetuity.In accordance with the Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order (FFACO), the EM Nevada Program recently completed cleanup at sites on NTTR where contaminated soil and debris resulted from historic nuclear weapons testing and support activities. FFACO is a legally-binding agreement signed in 1996 that outlines a schedule of cleanup and monitoring commitments.In the 1960s, sites at the NTTR were used to test nuclear weapons to determine if they could be accidentally set off and produce a nuclear yield. These experiments resulted in the contamination of soil and debris. During recently completed cleanup of these sites, contaminated soil and debris were transported to the Nevada National Security Site for permanent disposal.For more information on the EM Nevada Program’s environmental restoration activities, click here.