The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is committed to the cleanup of sites that were once part of the nation's nuclear weapons complex. Several of these sites are located close or adjacent to sovereign tribal nations and impact Indian lands and/or resources. Consistent with the Department's American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Government Policy, the Office of Environmental Management maintains cooperative agreements with tribal nations to enhance their involvement in cleanup decisions while protecting relevant tribal rights and resources.
Tribes are involved in pertinent cleanup decisions made by the EM program and site activities through cooperative agreements, agreements-in-principle and memoranda-of-understanding. These agreements allow the tribes to:
- establish tribal environmental programs related to DOE sites and facilities;
- hire tribal staff and scientific experts to inform tribal leaders on cleanup efforts;
- examine cleanup plans at the sites;
- provide comments on potential and known impacts of past, present and future cleanup work on tribal lands;
- and preserve and protect tribal cultural resources; (e.g., artifacts, fish and wildlife, native plants and sacred sites)
Tribal environmental programs allow EM to benefit from tribal expertise by: performing environmental protection activities such as water, soil, and air monitoring; establishing transportation emergency response programs for tribes to be "first responders" for potential incidents on reservations and neighboring jurisdictions; and conducting cultural resource surveys, wildlife monitoring projects, archeological assessments and native plant re-vegetation in conjunction with DOE cleanup projects; and promoting educational initiatives that enhance cross-cultural understanding and student ability in the fields of mathematics and science.
Established in the early 1990s, STGWG is composed of policy-level representatives from states and tribes that host DOE facilities or are otherwise impacted by activities at DOE facilities. STGWG helps ensure that DOE facilities and sites are operated and cleaned up in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations, and tribal rights including those retained by treaty, and conferred by statute and the trust responsibility; as well as in a manner that protects human health, safety and the environment.
Managed by the National Conference of State Legislatures, STGWG's composition offers a unique perspective on issues such as long-term stewardship, tribal issues, transportation planning, nuclear waste and materials disposition, and deactivation and decommissioning activities.