The Hanford Advisory Board is asking the Department of Energy to increase its annual budget to $590,000 to allow it to hold more meetings and meetings in more places.
In recent years the board met only in the Tri-Cities because of a lack of funds. For the last four years it received about $450,000 in federal funding.
To allow one meeting outside the Tri-Cities in fiscal 2017, it dropped the number of full board meetings scheduled from five to four.
Historically, the board held six meetings a year, with two of them outside the Tri-Cities in the Pacific Northwest locations such as Portland, Seattle, Spokane, Lewiston, and Hood River, it said in a letter of advice sent to the Department of Energy at the end of last week.
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The board has 32 primary members, plus alternates, each representing groups such as local governments, Hanford workers, the general public, unions, environmental groups and public health. They provide advice to DOE on Hanford environmental cleanup and to DOE’s regulators, the Washington State Department of Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Since the board was founded in 1994, it issued 290 pieces of policy-level advice to the agencies based on consensus of board members representing diverse interests.
“We need to go back to having enough meetings, either committee or board meetings, to get the job done,” said board member Bob Suyama.
Due to funding that has dropped from about $600,000 in 2008, plus inflation, not only the number of board meetings but also the number of board committee meetings have been cut.
Resuming meetings outside the Tri-Cities allows the board to hear a diverse opinions and concerns from people outside of the area, said board member Susan Leckband.
Although some board members pointed out that some past board meetings outside the Tri-Cities have drawn only a few people to watch and no news media, other board members said that could be fixed by planning evening sessions on timely topics when the board travels.
Its budget request of $590,000 for the next fiscal year should be followed with a 2.3 percent increase for inflation in future years, the board said. That funding level would allow at least five board meetings a year, including at least one outside the Tri-Cities, plus committee meetings nearly every month.
▪ In other board news, it chose new leadership.
Retired Hanford worker Susan Leckband replaces outgoing Chairman Steve Hudson for a two-year term. Leckband was previously picked as chairwoman in late 2006 and served for six years. She represents the Washington League of Women Voters on the board.
Shelley Cimon, who represents Columbia Riverkeeper on the board, was picked as vice chairwoman. Pam Larsen, who represents the City of Richland on the board and is the executive director of Hanford Communities, will serve as national liaison.