The Department of Energy has yet to determine whether certain members of the Portsmouth Site Specific Advisory Board (SSAB) had conflicts of interest that should have kept them from voting on an issue last month, sources said Tuesday.
Dennis Foreman, a Pike County, Ohio, teacher who serves on the advisory panel, made a formal challenge to the department after a May 10 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to ask DOE and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to reopen the formal 2015 record of decision to build the $900 million on-site waste disposal cell at Portsmouth.
Foreman, who opposes the disposal cell, had asserted some board members who voted against reconsideration have employment or family ties to the cleanup operation at Portsmouth, a former uranium enrichment plant. On Tuesday, both Foreman and a DOE spokesperson said there has been no ruling on the challenge.
“This is supposed to be a community board not a contractor board,” Foreman said in his email, adding he and other opponents continue to fight the disposal cell.
Members of local advisory boards for DOE cleanup sites are not bound by the same ethics standards as federal employees. At the same time, DOE asks the members to steer clear of real or perceived conflicts of interest, such as using the board post for financial gain.
In an 18 page document for board members, the department advises conflicts of interests can be seen as an action that might benefit the board member, their spouse children, or employees.
Board members are urged to consult with the panel’s federal representative for guidance on avoiding potential conflicts. They are also encouraged to recuse themselves from matters in which they have a conflict.