Pete Sheehey, candidate for Democratic Party nomination for New Mexico House of Representatives, District 43

April 23, 2010

Pete Sheehey, candidate for the Democratic nomination for New Mexico House of Representatives, District 43, made a statement Tuesday, April 13 at the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Public Hearing held at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo on the Los Alamos National Laboratory Hazardous Waste Facility Permit. At the NMED Public Hearing held on April 23 in Los Alamos, he reiterated and made additional comments:

"My name is Peter Sheehey. I live in Los Alamos and have worked as a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) since 1986. I am not a spokesman for the Lab; this is a statement of my own personal knowledge and opinion. At the April 13 hearing I stated:

"The work done for our national security at LANL over the past 65 years has resulted in undeniable damage to the environment of Los Alamos and surrounding areas, and this damage must be repaired. As a citizen of New Mexico and a candidate for New Mexico House of Representatives, District 43, I strongly support the New Mexico Environment Department's (NMED) responsibility to regulate the cleanup of past environmental damage, and to regulate present operations at LANL involving hazardous waste.

"As a citizen of the United States and a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, I also support the work done there for our national security. Some of this work involves research into how to deal with emergency situations involving high explosives and high explosive residues, which can be extremely hazardous. Experts at LANL provide training to military personnel and first responders who have to deal with such situations. The safest way to dispose of the hazardous material produced in this research and training is to move it as little as possible, and then burn it in the open with high temperature burners. NMED and LANL agree that this procedure produces almost no air pollution or additional health risk to humans, and little other environmental impact.

"The work at LANL that requires open burning can save the lives of people who are asked to deal with hazardous situations. One of my duties is emergency response involving high explosives. It would be irresponsible for NMED to place me and my fellow responders, military and civilian, at greater risk by denying the Lab permission to dispose of such waste in the safest and cleanest possible way. LANL personnel, such as myself, are ready and willing to do this work. The state of New Mexico should not tell the nation to find another place to perform this important mission.

"I urge the NMED to allow continued controlled open burning of the wastes produced in this work at LANL. The Lab has agreed to appropriate monitoring of any potential environmental impacts."

"Today I have additional comments. I have looked at many of the statements made in this hearing, which have been posted at the NMED website:

"There are statements critical of some of the national security work done at LANL. We are all free to state our opinions on this, but these criticisms should not influence the decision NMED makes, because it is not the role of NMED to determine national security policy. There are statements criticizing the slow pace of the federal government to clean up previous environmental damage at the Lab. I share this concern, and I continue to support the Obama administration's increase in funding for remediation work. There are also a lot of statements from people like me, who work and live here, and from our local governments such as the Los Alamos County Council, in favor of the permit to include controlled and monitored open burning. Of course we want a clean environment in which to live and raise our families. We want to do our work at LANL in an environmentally responsible way. We expect the New Mexico Environment Department to work with the Lab to make this possible, and to help decrease the misunderstanding about what we do at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Thank you."