STGWG Priority Issue Areas
STGWG examines a range of issues related to the cleanup of the nuclear weapons complex, including the DOE-EM cleanup mission and related to federal activities. The environmental cleanup efforts address a legacy of hazardous materials and radioactive wastes—plutonium, uranium, spent nuclear fuel, contaminated facilities, and contaminated soil and groundwater.
In recent years, STGWG has chosen to focus on three priority issue areas—long-term stewardship (LTS), natural resource damage assessment and restoration (NRDAR), and tribal concerns. Given the unique composition of STGWG’s membership, these priority areas are of particular interest and relevance to states and tribes. These priorities also provide the opportunity for members to come together to share information and hold focused dialogues with DOE.
STGWG continues to prioritize the stewardship and future use of the nuclear weapons complex and considers this a key responsibility to future generations. The cleanup decisions made today will have a lasting impact on future generations. STGWG members also recognize that cleanup does not always end with a closed site, instead contaminants may remain in the soil, water, plants and other natural resources. Planning and implementing LTS activities, such as engineered barriers and institutional controls, ensures the effectiveness of cleanup and protect human health, the environment and cultural resources.
STGWG published the “Closure for the Seventh Generation” report in 1999 to evaluate stewardship activities at various DOE sites. STGWG defined stewardship in the context of environmental management as “Activities necessary to maintain long-term protection of human health and the environment from hazards posed by residual radioactivity and chemically hazardous materials.”
In 2017, the STGWG LTS Committee, with coordination from NCSL, developed an updated edition of the report. In this update, STGWG highlights the progress made by DOE and examines successes and challenges with long-term stewardship activities across 15 DOE sites. The report and its recommendations serve as a framework for ongoing dialogue and cooperative action on LTS among DOE, states, and tribes.
Additional information can be found on DOE’s Long-Term Stewardship Resource Center.
Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration
Through the natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) process, federal agencies, states and tribes assess injuries to natural resources caused by hazardous substances.
At several DOE sites, states, tribes and federal agencies engage as co-trustees as part of natural resource trustee councils. These trustee councils work together to accomplish the ultimate goal of restoration. While NRDAR processes are underway at several DOE sites, there are success stories to point to, such as the restoration work on Paddys Run at Fernald Preserve in Ohio.
Additional information on NRDAR can be found through the U.S. Department of Interior Restoration Program and the U.S. Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Native American tribes have a unique relationship with the federal government, including DOE. The DOE American Indian Policy and DOE Order 144.1 give direction to DOE officials and contractors regarding the fulfillment of trust obligations and responsibilities arising from actions which may affect American Indian and Alaska Native traditional and cultural values, natural resources and federally recognized and reserved treaty rights. STGWG member tribes were involved with the development of the policy and order.
STGWG does not substitute for government-to-government consultation. However, STGWG does provide an organized forum for tribes to share perspectives and engage with DOE to promote the understanding of tribal interests, such as cultural resources, stewardship and enhanced government-to-government relations. STGWG periodically holds Tribal Leader Dialogues, which are high-level conversations between senior DOE officials and tribal leaders that provide an opportunity to check in on the implementation of DOE Order 144.1 and related needs.