The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently completed its work on the Environmental Justice (EJ) Implementation Report for the 2020 fiscal year.

Although COVID-19 presented many obstacles and challenges in 2020, DOE continued its work on identifying and addressing high and adverse human health and environmental effects of its programs, policy, and activities on minority and low-income populations, including American Indians and Alaskan Natives. DOE strives to create opportunities for these communities and others, to better serve and improve the environment and protect human health.

DOE EJ is committed to collaboration through educational, motivating, and innovative initiatives that are focused on DOE’s environmental stewardship, clean energy, and nuclear security.

The EJ Implementation Report documents the activities achieved from these various DOE programs and projects in 2020, across many different departments, that remain consistent with DOE’s mission. The report documents LM’s work with Tribal partners, collaborations, on-site inspections, environmental monitoring, document review, natural resource management, community outreach, and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and career development.

The EJ report highlights two specific LM efforts: the Tribal Intergovernmental Resource Team (TIGR), which focuses on strengthening Tribal relationships and STEM programming; and the DOE Mentorship for Environmental Scholars (MES) Program, which highlights DOE STEM education and outreach to underserved communities.

“The TIGR program brings together a diverse group of tribal partners from different traditions and heritages and works with federal agencies through direct, face-to-face collaboration, to develop strategies for closer cooperation,” said Mark Kautsky, UMTRCA program manager with the Office of Legacy Management (LM).

According to Kautsky, the TIGR program and other efforts foster LM Public Affairs staff collaboration with the Navajo Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation/Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action, (AML/UMTRA), producing successful re-engagement of the TIGR, the members of which hadn’t met since 2019.

TIGR comprises LM site managers, Legacy Management Strategic Partner (LMSP) staff, LM public participation specialists, Navajo AML/UMTRA staff, representatives of the Hopi Tribe Department of Natural Resources, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). LM staff and AML/UMTRA re-engaged TIGR to identify projects that would benefit all members and stay connected to the community. Members were focused on coordinating community outreach actives and STEM educational  opportunities.

The report also focuses on DOE’s work on targeting underserved communities through the Mentors for Environmental Scholars Program (MES). The program is a collaboration between Pre-College University (PCU) and DOE to raise minority awareness and participation in environmental sciences.

“Growing and supporting programs such as this are the tip of the iceberg for LM. We have a duty and responsibility to support all communities, especially those who are underrepresented. Our team continues to be committed to those responsibilities,” said LM Public Participation Specialist Shawn Montgomery.

MES offers students paid opportunities at DOE laboratories and LM offices across the U.S. While the COVID-19 pandemic suspended internship opportunities, PCU launched an online academy and virtual experiences for the students, giving them an in-depth look at the history of each MES host laboratory.