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Mission

STGWG provides a national platform for states and Native American tribes affected by DOE sites and facilities associated with the production and cleanup of the nuclear weapons complex. Through the working group, tribes and states provide expertise and share perspectives regarding the cleanup of DOE sites and facilities. 

History

In 1989, governors from 10 states wrote a letter to then Secretary of Energy James D. Watkins to express concerns regarding the management, cleanup and disposal of radioactive and hazardous chemical wastes at DOE facilities within or adjacent to their state’s boundaries. As DOE shifted its mission from nuclear weapons production to cleanup, Watkins invited states, tribes and national organizations to participate in a conference dealing with cleanup issues, which resulted in the formation of STGWG.

Over 30 years later, STGWG has had a productive history of working with DOE to advance the critical mission of environmental cleanup across the DOE complex. STGWG has become an important part of DOE-EM’s work as it continues to convene states and tribes to share information and perspectives and to engage with DOE. STGWG also engages with five other intergovernmental groups, including the Nuclear Legislative Working Group, through the Combined Intergovernmental Working Group and annual Intergovernmental Meeting.

STGWG membership includes states and Native American tribes and is based on the relationship to the DOE-EM cleanup mission. These states and tribes host DOE facilities or are otherwise affected by associated DOE cleanup activities.

STGWG is composed of policy-level representatives, including tribal leaders, state agency staff and tribal program staff. STGWG members offer unique perspectives on issues such as long-term stewardship, cultural resources, natural resources, nuclear waste and materials disposition, and deactivation and decommissioning activities.

Membership in STGWG has evolved since the group’s formation in 1989 and as cleanup has progressed. Currently, STGWG is comprised of 13 states and 12 tribes.

Current STGWG Members

Organization and Leadership

One state co-convener and one tribal co-convener facilitate the working group with the support of NCSL. The current STGWG co-conveners are Raymond Martinez (Pueblo de San Ildefonso) and Debbie Duren (Tennessee).

STGWG uses a committee structure to focus on priority topics, such as long-term stewardship and natural resource damage assessment and restoration. The STGWG Executive Committee, which is typically comprised of the co-conveners and committee co-chairs, provides guidance and contributes to strategic planning for the working group throughout the year.

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.

Long-Term Stewardship

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.

Tribal Issues

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.  

Meetings

STGWG members participate in semi-annual meetings with DOE-EM leadership to receive programmatic updates, address cleanup concerns, and help ensure that DOE facilities and sites are operated and cleaned up in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations, and protected tribal rights and interests. Other DOE offices, such as the Office of Legacy Management, National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Nuclear Energy, regularly participate in STGWG meetings.

Meetings are frequently held in coordination with other intergovernmental groups. Spring meetings often include a visit to a cleanup site to provide STGWG members with a greater understanding of the DOE complex.

Related Resources

Nuclear Legislative Working Group

The mission of NCSL’s Nuclear Legislative Working Group (NLWG) is to provide legislative members with the opportunity to learn about the cleanup of federal nuclear weapons production and research facilities, the transportation and storage of radioactive wastes, and nuclear energy issues that affect our nation and states.
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