EM Senior Advisor William “Ike” White and Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Nicole Nelson-Jean last week visited the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), where they received briefings on key projects, and met with stakeholders and elected officials in southeast and northern New Mexico.
While their schedule was full, the trip provided a timely update on EM progress in the state.
"While the New Mexico trip was a quick one, it was quite helpful as EM looks forward to closing out a successful 2022 in New Mexico and making more progress in the coming year," White said. "In 2022, EM made a concerted effort to increase stakeholder engagement by EM-Los Alamos and WIPP and we plan to increase our efforts in 2023.”
On the first day, White and Nelson-Jean met with Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb, who highlighted areas where the City of Hobbs is working with WIPP to ensure the site’s continued success. Cobb also discussed opportunities for increased coordination between Hobbs and DOE.
The next day, the EM leaders met with local elected and community officials in Carlsbad to discuss WIPP and EM’s community involvement. That included a meeting to discuss WIPP operations with Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway, Carlsbad Nuclear Task Force Chairman Jack Volpato and former state representative John Heaton.
"Our trip helped reinforce that New Mexico remains an environmental cleanup priority for EM," Nelson-Jean said. "We are eager to continue working with elected officials, community leaders and regulators throughout New Mexico to help ensure the success of EM’s mission."
Additionally, White and Nelson-Jean toured the Southeastern New Mexico College with Monty Harris, the college’s interim chief academic officer provost. Recently, DOE committed to work with the college on how to apply for a workforce pipeline grant. During the tour, the EM leaders learned how the grant money will benefit the local college and workforce development.
At WIPP, White and Nelson-Jean viewed progress on two large capital projects currently underway: the Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System and a new utility shaft, which will increase the overall airflow provided to the WIPP underground. Read about those projects in a separate story in this EM Update issue. They also toured the WIPP underground disposal area, including Panel 8, the newly mined disposal area for transuranic waste.
In the WIPP underground, the EM leaders participated in a small ceremony to recognize the work and advocacy of Heaton, who has supported WIPP for many decades. White presented Heaton with a letter of gratitude from Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and two challenge coins, one from Granholm and one from EM.
Next, the group traveled to Santa Fe to meet with local leaders and regulators. White and Nelson-Jean met with Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen and State Rep. Christine Chandler.
White and Nelson-Jean also discussed areas of shared cooperation and interest with New Mexico Environmental Department Secretary James Kenney and some of his staff members. The discussion offered valuable insight from New Mexico’s top regulator on EM cleanup operations. White, Nelson-Jean and Kenney also focused on how DOE and New Mexico can work together more closely to achieve common goals and ensure cleanup operations in southern and northern New Mexico continue to be conducted safely, transparently and efficiently.
These interactions with local leaders and state regulators follow recent public engagement meetings held by the WIPP team in Santa Fe and ongoing meetings on the EM-Los Alamos 10-year vision. EM remains committed to working with its stakeholders and officials to instill continued commitment of the environmental cleanup mission in New Mexico.
To receive the latest news and updates about the Office of Environmental Management, submit your e-mail address.