You would think that after spending tens of millions of dollars on Environmental Impact Statements and Supplement Analyses that the DOE would be proud of its work. Yet so many documents relating to the Nevada Test Site (NTS) are missing online. This includes the 1996 NTS Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the most recent Draft Supplement Analysis, or Draft SA, a document that is drawn up, and reviewed by the public, every five years per the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to see if the most recent EIS is still applicable, or adjustments need to be made. They appear to no longer exist online at the website of the DOE/NNSA/NSO (www.nv.doe.gov).*
The rationale for this appears on a DOE webpage that states 'Because of the security sensitivity of some information in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents, the Department of Energy (DOE) is limiting access to certain NEPA documents on this web site. Members of the public cannot access these environmental impact statements and environmental assessments on this web site at this time. DOE regrets any inconvenience caused by this decision, which reflects an awareness of the need to protect the public following the September 11th attacks. DOE will continue to provide hard copies as available of all its NEPA documents to people upon request. If you want to request a particular document, you may do so by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving a message on our toll-free information line at 1-800-472-2756. We will direct your request to the responsible DOE office.'
This is unacceptable. First, Federal Depositories across the U.S. have, over the past decade, rid their shelves of DOE NEPA documents in favor of online links to electronic NEPA documents on the DOE's website. Federal Depositories' and other library's online catalogues presently forward library users to the DOE's website for online NEPA documents but those links are now dead. When it issued its Draft SA in April 2008, the DOE didn't seem to care there was no online link to the 1996 NTS EIS, the very document that the draft SA analyzes. The DOE's final decision stemming from the supplement analysis process initiated in April 2008 was expected to be delivered on September 30, 2008, but the DOE has not met that deadline.
The DOE is unintentionally undermining NEPA by making these documents harder to access. In many cases for DOE NEPA documents, the hard copies that the DOE now wants to give to the public are impossible to utilize; for example, the first 9 chapters and Appendices A through I of the paper-bound 1996 NTS EIS number over 1,000 pages long! Why are we devolving from the technological age all of a sudden and removing perhaps the greatest online invention: the search function? Since NTS NEPA documents going back to 1977 and 1996 are still relevant for reviewing current and future supplement analyses and for the eventual next NTS EIS, don't you think this policy must be reversed?
Second, what will happen when the DOE runs out of hard-copies: the DOE writes that it 'will continue to provide hard copies as available.' That makes no sense. Will stakeholders, when told that paper-bound reports have run out, have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a DOE NEPA document from the Department of Commerce's National Technical Information Service (NTIS), the only publisher of these soon-to-be 'out-of-print' federal documents? Why has the DOE removed online (electronic) versions of DOE NEPA documents out of terrorism fears yet the Department of Commerce's NTIS makes all of these documents - paper-bound AND electronic - available for a fee to anyone with a credit card?
Third, if the DOE's terrorism fears concern (illegal) access to Cold War legacy plutonium (or other radionuclides) lying around vast expanses of the Nevada desert floor, why don't they simply clean it up? The DOE needs to do remediation of soil-contaminated areas anyway for public health concerns and because these withdrawn public lands need to be de-contaminated before being handed over to the BLM.
How is the DOE protecting the public by denying public access to information the public needs (per NEPA) to hold accountable managers for human-made activities at our own federal facilities that may endanger public health?
* The link that used to exist on the DOE's website to the 2008 Draft Supplement Analysis - that was a searchable and electronic document version - is now a broken link (as of 9.30.2008). The DOE's only online copy of the document isn't searchable and was scanned, here.