Hanford

Attorney named to lead state’s Hanford cleanup regulatory program

Among the projects the Washington State Department of Ecology regulates is the Hanford vitrification plant, including the High Level Waste Facility shown here.
Among the projects the Washington State Department of Ecology regulates is the Hanford vitrification plant, including the High Level Waste Facility shown here. Courtesy Bechtel National

Port of Seattle attorney Alex Smith has been named the new manager of the Washington state office that helps regulate cleanup at the Hanford nuclear reservation.

She replaces Jane Hedges, who retired at the end of February as the manager of the Department of Ecology’s Nuclear Waste Program in Richland.

Smith’s first day of work in the Richland office will be April 18.

“Alex brings a wealth of regulatory and legal experience in both the public and private sector, including assisting with some work on Hanford as former lead attorney for Ecology’s hazardous waste and toxics reduction program,” said Polly Zehm, the Department of Ecology’s deputy director, in an announcement Monday.

Smith was among seven external and internal candidates interviewed for the position by a panel that included Zehm and Maia Bellon, the director of the Department of Ecology. She will be paid $110,000 a year, the top of the range advertised, and will oversee a staff of about 75 employees.

The state has the lead regulatory role for the Hanford tank farms, where 56 million gallons of radioactive waste are stored in underground tanks, and the vitrification plant being built to treat the waste.

Smith has worked since the start of the year as chief environmental attorney for the Port of Seattle after serving as director of environmental programs for the Port of Olympia from 2011-15. Her work there included negotiating orders and consent decrees with regulatory agencies and settlement agreements with liable parties at cleanup sites. She also managed several port projects from design to construction.

“One of the qualities that really impresses me about Alex is her commitment to fair and transparent communications with partners and stakeholders,” Zehm said.

From 2000 to 2008 Smith was an assistant attorney general for the state Attorney General’s Office. She assisted with regulatory enforcement actions against the Department of Energy at Hanford that came before the Pollution Control Hearing Board.

Smith also has worked for a private legal firm and as an assistant attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.

She plans to work with DOE, the Environmental Protection Agency, the tribes and the local community to ensure a timely and effective cleanup of Hanford, she said.

“I am excited to join the team at Ecology and get to work on this incredibly important cleanup effort,” Smith said in a statement.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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