2019 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2019 17:17:41 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] RADIATION: Energy Department's "Growing Environmental Cleanup Liability"
Program-Wide Strategy and Better Reporting Needed to Address Growing Environmental Cleanup Liability
U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO-19-28)
January 29, 2019

What GAO Found

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) faces an environmental liability of $377 billion, according to DOE’s fiscal year 2018 financial statement. This amount largely reflects estimates of future costs to clean up legacy radioactive tank waste and contaminated facilities and soil. From fiscal years 2011 through 2018, EM’s environmental liability grew by about $214 billion—outpacing its cleanup spending of about $45 billion for that time period. Contract and project management problems and other factors have led to this growth. For example, EM’s environmental liability increased by nearly $130 billion from fiscal year 2014 to 2018 at the Hanford Site in Washington State, in part because of contract and project management problems with waste cleanup. GAO found that EM’s liability will likely continue to grow, in part because the costs of some future work are not yet included in the estimated liability. For example, EM’s liability does not include more than $2.3 billion in costs associated with 45 contaminated facilities that will likely be transferred to EM from other DOE programs in the future.

EM relies primarily on individual sites to locally negotiate cleanup activities and establish priorities. GAO’s analysis of DOE documents identified instances of decisions involving billions of dollars where such an approach did not always balance overall risks and costs. For example, two EM sites had plans to treat similar radioactive tank waste differently, and the costs at one site—Hanford— may be tens of billions more than those at the other site. EM sites generally do not consider other sites’ risks and priorities when making cleanup decisions. This is not consistent with recommendations by GAO and others over the last 2 decades that EM develop national priorities to balance risks and costs across and within its sites. However, EM has not developed such a program-wide strategy. Instead, according to agency officials, it continues to prioritize and fund cleanup activities by individual site. Without a strategy that sets national priorities and describes how DOE will address its greatest risks, EM lacks assurance that it is making the most cost-effective cleanup decisions across its sites. 


For the full Highlights and a link to the full report, go to 


Lenny Siegel
Executive Director
Center for Public Environmental Oversight
a project of the Pacific Studies Center
P.O. Box 998, Mountain View, CA 94042
Voice/Fax: 650/961-8918 

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