Morning Briefing - June 05, 2019
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June 05, 2019

House Panel Would Have DOE Follow Prior Consent Orders at Santa Susana

By ExchangeMonitor

Language in a fiscal 2020 spending package passed by the full House Appropriations Committee May 21 says the Energy Department should comply with prior consent decrees when it comes to remediation its portion of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) in California.

A provision of the report accompanying the Energy and Water Development appropriations bill encourages DOE “to move forward expeditiously” on remediation of contaminated soil within Area IV and the Northern Buffer Zone of Santa Susana in Ventura County.

In addition, the Energy Department is “directed to comply” with a 2007 consent order, as well as a 2010 administrative order which the federal agency negotiated with the state.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and some advocacy groups criticized the final environmental impact statement by DOE in December. The agency is responsible for soil remediation within 470 acres of the 2,850-acre SSFL property.

The state and groups like Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles say DOE plans don’t measure up to standards set in the 2010 order. The state says the 2010 agreement calls for returning the agency’s Energy Technology Engineering Center and adjacent property, used for research into nuclear power, to background contamination levels.

Instead, the Energy Department plan would make the area safe enough for hikers who visit the site a few times per year. Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles questions if DOE is doing enough to protect people who live near the site.

The Energy Department has yet to publish its record of decision, laying out exactly how it plans to proceed with the soil work. Boeing and NASA are the other responsible parties for addressing the rest of the SSFL site.

The Trump administration wants to increase money for DOE remediation of Santa Susana from $11 million in fiscal 2019 to $18 million in fiscal 2020.

The House panel’s bill does not appear to include that degree of detail on Santa Susana, but money for non-defense environmental cleanup of “small sites,” including DOE’s portion of SSFL, would dip from $131 million in fiscal 2019 to $127 million in fiscal 2020. That is near double the $66 million the White House request for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.