Newly appointed Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm promised a more “collaborative and inclusive approach” to working with communities hosting and surrounding Department of Energy cleanup sites during a video address to the 2021 Waste Management Symposia on March 9. Granholm is the highest DOE official to ever address the annual conference dedicated to radioactive waste management, which is being held virtually this year due to the ongoing pandemic.
“Our work is about more than just restoring the land,” Granholm said of the DOE’s environmental management program. “It is really about keeping our promises to the American people. It is our responsibility to lift this burden from communities that have shouldered the burden of our safety and help them achieve a more vibrant and sustainable future.”
Inclusive approach: Saying that the DOE needs to keep building strong relationships with the states, stakeholders, and communities hosting environmental management program sites, Granholm stressed the importance of inclusion in its work to remediate sites contaminated by legacy radioactive waste. “Local residents may or may not have had some idea of what was going on in their backyard during the early years at our sites, but they certainly weren’t at the decision-making table,” she said.
Granholm added that over its history, the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management has made “incredible progress” in its effort to be more inclusive, with community advisory boards having been formed at eight of the department’s cleanup sites.
“These and other outreach and inclusive efforts have led to safer and faster cleanup and a stronger relationship with the local communities and tribal nations,” she said. “Now we’re going to go even further to make sure that the benefits of these investments reach those who have been hit the hardest by the damage. We are going to take this collaborative and inclusive approach to all of DOE’s missions.”
Diversity: Granholm also touted the benefits of a diverse workforce, urging conference participants to do what they can to increase diversity where they work.
“We know that diversity is what makes the workforce and this country so strong, and at DOE, we are looking at how to build a diverse pipeline of both talent within our agency and from coast to coast,” she said. “So to all the contractors who are participating today, and to ourselves, we can all do better. You can and we can, and I hope we do.”
Opening day: A day earlier, during the opening session of the WMS, the DOE's Calendar Year 2021 Mission and Priorities were described by William “Ike” White, the DOE's acting assistant secretary for environmental management.