New Mexico Environment Department Sues DOE to Terminate 2016 Consent Order for LANL

Late last week the New Mexico Environment Department filed a lawsuit against the Department of Energy to terminate the 2016 Consent Order for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).  The Consent Order is an administrative tool requiring the cleanup of radioactive, hazardous and toxic wastes stored or buried at LANL.  The lawsuit is the culmination of a failed mandated dispute resolution process required by the Order.

Environment Department Secretary James Kenney said, “[W]e are seeking to terminate the 2016 Consent Order and initiate court-supervised negotiations to renegotiate clean-up terms that protect communities and their environment.”  He described the Department’s high expectations on entering into the 2016 Order, concluding that, “[A]lmost five years later, our expectations are far from met.”   2021-02-25-NMED-seeks-termination-of-LANL-2016-Consent-Order-1 

The Department’s efforts to address legacy waste began over 20 years ago, after the May 2000 Cerro Grande fire.  The fire burned over 7,000 acres across LANL facilities above the Rio Grande.  It burned the Jemez Mountains.  It crossed LANL facilities and Los Alamos homes, opening new pathways for wastes to move through the canyons toward the Rio Grande.

After its investigation, on May 2, 2002, the Department released a Determination that conditions at LANL created an Imminent and Substantial Endangerment to Health or the Environment, along with a draft Order.  The Determination provided comprehensive information about the pollutants found on the mesas and in the canyons, the burial and storage sites and the pathways for pollutants to reach the Rio Grande.

A month later, LANL filed lawsuits in both federal and state courts to challenge the Determination and Order.  The government agencies entered into a lengthy, 18-month closed-door settlement negotiation.  On March 1, 2005, a new Consent Order was signed and the public learned that during the negotiations, the Determination had been withdrawn.  NMED-REPONSE-TO-COMMENTS-ON-LANL-CONSENT-ORDER-16251 See Response to Questions 24 and 25 on p. 8 – 9.    

During the Martinez Administration, the parties re-negotiated the 2005 Order with the ineffective 2016 Order.  Preventative pollution-reporting requirements and some public notice were eliminated, among other measures that benefited LANL.

Joni Arends, of CCNS, having followed the Consent Order process of the previous two negotiations and provided public comments, insists on the critical importance for the Department to update and reinstate the Imminent and Substantial Endangerment to Health or the Environment Determination.  She points out that the same or similar risks remain.

Arends also urged the Department to open up the negotiations to the public.  She says, “We are impacted by LANL’s operations everyday.  CCNS’s vision for LANL is a site that is cleaned up; where surface and ground water flow to the Rio Grande without pollution; the air is safe to breathe; and LANL honors this Place and the People’s well-being.”

  1. Every Friday and Saturday from noon to 1 pm – Protest LANL signing a 10-year lease (for the former Descartes building) to establish itself in Santa Fe at the corner of Guadalupe and W. Alameda. JOIN US! We’ll have banners.  Please bring a sign.



  1. Thursday, March 11th – Two Virtual Events Commemorating the 10th Year Since the Fukushima Disaster.


a) At 7 pm MST, 6 pm PST – Mothers for Peace, San Luis Obispo with a presentation by Biologist Mary Olson of the Gender and Radiation Impact Project. Mary will introduce REFERENCE GIRL.

Yuji and Beverly Findlay Kaneko, co-producers of Voices from Japan, will provide a current update on Fukushima. 

Register at:  For more information:


b) At 6 – 7:15 pm MST, 5 – 6:15 pm PST – Oregon Physicians for SocialResponsibility will host a panel discussion about the film, Remembering Fukushima, Ten Years Later, with filmmaker Hitomi Kamanaka. He will be joined by Norma Field, Ruiko Muto and Leona Morgan.

The film begins streaming on March 1st and is available until March11th. For more information about streaming the film for $8, please go to Oregon PSR:

The film screening and panel discussion are part of the Cascadia Arts Film Festival.


  1. Monday, March 29th EPA granted a four-week extension of time to provide comments about LANL industrial wastewater discharge permit. CCNS is preparing comments in response to Triad National Security, LLC’s comments submitted on March 1, 2021.  Stay tuned for sample public comments you can use, as we get closer to the deadline.



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