In this chapter the committee provides an overview of the current public involvement process and how past experience with decision making and public involvement has shaped stakeholders’ views about how to address the potential for offsite shipments of hydrolysate. A variety of stakeholders are interested in and affected by activities at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) facility. The discussion in this chapter focuses on the interests and involvement of local members of the public, relying primarily on the Citizens’ Advisory Commission (CAC) and the Chemical Destruction Citizens’ Advisory Board (CDCAB), an independent subcommittee of the CAC, which serve as the institutional representatives of the local and state populations.1 Public involvement has been highlighted as a critical component of the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program since its inception.2 Indeed, the Program Executive Office (PEO) ACWA “attributes its success in identifying safe and effective alternatives for chemical weapons destruction to its commitment to meaningful stakeholder input and involvement.”3
The chapter concludes with a series of findings and recommendations. Appendix A tells the history of public involvement in the ACWA program.
The public involvement process at BGCAPP is well established and includes a variety of opportunities for stakeholders to obtain consistent information about and become involved in project activities and decisions. The outreach effort is described as a team effort among governmental and contractor staff from PEO ACWA, BGCAPP, the Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD) and the Blue Grass Chemical Activity.4 PEO ACWA is responsible for providing information about operations and programs to the broader public by maintaining an informational website, for responding to media enquiries and, since 2010, for periodically posting on Twitter and Facebook.5 Additionally, PEO ACWA provides a quarterly briefing that is posted on the PEO ACWA website.6 The local outreach office, staffed by three full-time and one part-time contractor staff, is often the first line of engagement for local residents and is responsible for a variety of activities. The staff distributes monthly electronic newsletters to a mailing list estimated at approximately 1,800 subscribers as well as to community leaders and to specialized mailing lists for news releases. Additional messages are also distributed from the BGCAPP project manager. The local outreach office contractor staff pass media enquiries to PEO ACWA headquarters, but they field enquiries from the public; support and facilitate CAC and CDCAB meetings; produce information products under government direction; participate in local activities, including staffing information booths at local events; operate a speakers bureau; maintain an active educational program for classes ranging from kindergarten through college; and arrange site tours.7
The CAC, established by Kentucky statute in 1994, comprises nine members appointed by the state governor. The
1 Stakeholders include personnel from the PEO ACWA, BGCAPP, Blue Grass Chemical Activity and Blue Grass Army Depot, the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection; members of the CAC/CDCAB, other local members of the public, and members of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation and Chemical Weapons Working Group.
2 The program was first established as the Assembled Chemical Weapons Assessment program. It subsequently became the Program Manager for Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives and, finally, the Program Executive Office for Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives.
4 April 7, 2015, conference call with Miguel Monteverde, public affairs specialist, PEO ACWA, and Sarah Parke, manager, Blue Grass Chemical Stockpile Outreach Office; Judith Bradbury and Seth Tuler, committee members; Todd Kimmell, committee chair; and Jim Myska, study director, NRC.
7 April 7 conference call, op. cit.
CDCAB, formed in 2003, functions as a subcommittee of the CAC to provide broader stakeholder involvement from a range of local organizations. These include government, civic, medical, emergency management, and university and school representatives. Of these CDCAB members, 24 are voting members and 7 are representatives of the agencies being advised by the body.8 The CAC/CDCAB members meet jointly four times a year.9
The committee gathered information about the interests and viewpoints of local community members from several sources:
- Open discussion at the committee’s January 2015 meeting in Kentucky;
- A public meeting, advertised in the local media and on the BGCAPP outreach office website, that was scheduled during the January 2015 committee meeting;
- Establishment of a dedicated e-mail address to which comments could be submitted. The address was printed on business cards, which were publicized in the local media and on the PEO ACWA website, distributed at the public meeting, and made available at the chemical stockpile outreach office (see Appendix B);10 and
- Follow-up telephone interviews with the CAC chair, a CDCAB co-chair, and PEO ACWA and BGCAPP outreach staff.
In addition, the CAC/CDCAB had been briefed by PEO ACWA and was given an opportunity to comment on this committee’s statement of task for the BGCAPP hydrolysate study prior to its issuance. The committee held its first meeting for this report in Richmond, Kentucky, close to BGCAPP, in January 2015 and invited CAC/CDCAB members to join it for the presentations and open discussion. Two members of the CAC/CDCAB, including the CAC chair and one co-chair of the CDCAB,11 attended the two days of open meetings and the concurrent public meeting. As part of the formal discussions and presentations at the committee meeting, the CAC/CDCAB provided written and verbal suggestions and expectations for the conduct of the study, including criteria that they believe should guide a decision to initiate offsite shipment of the hydrolysate should it be necessary. The committee and public meetings also provided an opportunity for committee members to introduce themselves and interact informally with the local representatives, as well as providing an overview of the study, responding to questions, and further emphasizing the importance of community input.
The committee also attempted to gather information from the broader public. The committee’s site visit and public meeting were advertised in the local media and on the PEO ACWA website; however, only one member of the public attended and no input was received other than from the CAC/CDCAB.12 Both the CAC/CDCAB and outreach staff from the site and PEO ACWA attributed the lack of input to residents’ trust in the CAC/CDCAB to protect their interests and reported little evidence of recent community discussion about possible offsite hydrolysate shipment or the risks of continued storage of the chemical weapons. The CDCAB co-chair emphasized that, if they had any concerns, the public was quick to contact CAC/CDCAB members and stated that “We hear from them . . . don’t think it’s because they don’t care about it.”13
CAC/CDCAB members’ past experiences shape the way they currently approach consideration of any contingency option for the disposal of hydrolysate (see Appendix A for a more detailed discussion). These experiences include (a) the ACWA Dialogue process and (b) the subsequent development of public involvement at BGCAPP. In combination, these experiences have contributed to
- The emergence of “critical trust” after the severe erosion of trust between community members and Army during early program efforts to incinerate chemical weapons;14
- An expectation by community members that they will continue to play a meaningful role in decision making about facility design, monitoring, and performance; and
- Continued, principled opposition to offsite shipment of the hydrolysate.
9 According to the outreach staff, the organizations are typically referred to jointly as the CAC/CDCAB. All CAC members are CDCAB members, but not all CDCAB members are also CAC members.
10 NRC Seeks Public Comment on Hydrolysate Transport, http://www.richmondregister.com/news/nrc-seeks-public-comment-on-hydrolysate-transport/article_ead95fb8-a1cd-11e4-a983-bf9e2a947b10.html.
11 The position of second co-chair was in transition at the time of the committee’s site visit.
12 The BGCAPP chemical stockpile outreach office manager reported that the cards providing the e-mail address for comments were publicized on the PEO ACWA website and Facebook, made available on the reception desk at the outreach office, and included in various presentations given by the office staff.
13 Discussion during the committee meeting in Richmond, Kentucky, January 2015.
14 Poortinga and Pidgeon (2003) call “critical trust” “a practical form of reliance on a person or institution combined with some healthy skepticism” (p. 971). It can serve important social functions, such as ensuring oversight and vigilance.
Beginning in the 1980s and, more notably during the 1990s, the chemical weapons destruction program was stalled by increasingly vocal and active opposition to incineration of the stockpile by residents living near some of the chemical weapons storage sites, in particular, the Pueblo Chemical Depot and BGAD. Prior to establishment of the ACWA program, residents believed that the Army discounted their questions and concerns about the safety of incineration and the safety of their families and communities. Pressure from Congress, spearheaded by the Kentucky Environmental Foundation and the Chemical Weapons Working Group (CWWG), was among the factors that led to the establishment of ACWA.15
As discussed in Appendix A, ACWA’s subsequent five-year-long Dialogue on Assembled Chemical Weapons (the ACWA Dialogue), initiated in 1997 and facilitated by personnel from the Keystone Policy Center, included input into the evaluation of alternative technologies for which the Army solicited proposals.16 It is important to note that the CAC chair and the CDCAB co-chair were involved in the original ACWA Dialogue group. The CAC chair described the ACWA Dialogue as “a remarkable accomplishment” and “a wonderful model of decision making. The key is to get everyone at the table, involve them in planning from the very beginning and not after a decision is made.”17 Interviews that the committee held with the CAC chair and CDCAB co-chair demonstrated that the experience continues to affect their interpretation and expectation of meaningful public involvement at BGCAPP.
A number of aspects of the ACWA Dialogue policy process were notable from the perspective of CAC/CDCAB members:
- Inclusion of both technical staff and local, lay representatives from the chemical weapons sites;
- Inclusion of both technical and social criteria for evaluating the technologies;
- The unprecedented extent of involvement afforded to local representatives, including establishment of a Citizens’ Advisory Technical Team that observed the scoring and weighting of evaluation criteria for the technologies;
- The community’s “ownership” of the technology as a result of its input and close involvement; and
- The beginning of a transformation from antagonism to an attitude of understanding and trust.
In a telephone interview with the committee, the CAC chair and the CDCAB co-chair described the building of trust, transparency, and collaboration between PEO ACWA and the community around BGCAPP as a long-term process. The process began with the establishment of the ACWA program and the ACWA Dialogue and continued with the mandate for public involvement and the appointment of an ACWA program officer who understood the value of, and the need for, transparency and meaningful public involvement.18 The CAC also recognized the need for broader representation of the community, leading to establishment of the CDCAB as an entity that would ensure input was sought from, and communication was maintained with, people representing the many groups and interests that make up the local community. Shortly afterwards, the CAC established working groups to study particular issues in detail, including a Secondary Waste Working Group, which has been actively engaged in the discussion of waste issues for over a decade and reports back to the joint meetings of the CAC/CDCAB. The CAC thus used the leverage provided by the PEO ACWA statutory directive for public involvement to push for what members envisioned as meaningful public involvement.
Outreach personnel from BGCAPP and PEO ACWA headquarters, as well as the CAC chair and the CDCAB co-chair, describe the current relationships between PEO ACWA and the community as very positive. For example, in his opening statement at the January meeting, the CAC chair emphasized the importance of PEO ACWA’s openness and expressed appreciation for the trust and relationships that PEO ACWA had built with the community that had turned around community residents’ original opposition and lack of trust. The CDCAB co-chair subsequently expanded on the evolution of relationships and opportunity for public involvement that had occurred, and stated as follows:
Historically, when decisions were brought to the community, there was opposition and argument because there was no discussion with the community beforehand. Now, topics are brought to us well before, for example, decisions about design changes are brought to us even before the structure of the process or a decision is in place. An example is that we got the [National Research Council] statement of task to review—we learned about what was being proposed by ACWA and have been heavily involved in the process since. A remarkable change from coming to town and announcing that we are going to incinerate. So now, even though we may not like a design change, we are more likely to accept
15 The CWWG includes members of the public living near chemical weapons storage sites across the U.S. and of national and international organizations. It is now less active than formerly because there are fewer sites where weapons remain. The CDCAB co-chair was a founding member of these organizations and currently identifies himself as Chemical Weapons Program Director of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation and national spokesperson for the (now smaller) CWWG.
16 Formerly named the Keystone Center, this Colorado organization is dedicated to facilitating resolution of national policy issues.
17 March 25, 2015, conference call with Doug Hindman, Kentucky CAC chair, and Craig Williams, Kentucky CDCAB co-chair; Judith Bradbury and Seth Tuler, committee members; Todd Kimmell, committee chair; and Jim Myska, study director, NRC.
it because we recognize it is for the safety of the community, we accept that it is the best way to go. For example, 15 years ago, no one [community stakeholders] would have considered as acceptable the [explosive destruction technology] or the thermal oxidizer [for the metal parts treater]. If we had not had the relationships, transparency, trust building between the Army and the community, that would have been a non-starter. But now, we can come together to agree about things that historically would have been distasteful or disagreeable and look at things in a broader sense.19
Several themes arose among the concerns expressed by the CAC chair and the CDCAB co-chair during the January 2015 meeting and in a subsequent telephone interview. These included the CAC/CDCAB’s continuing opposition to offsite shipment of the hydrolysate, along with their very reluctant and conditional acceptance of such an outcome as a last-resort contingency plan; their concerns about the impact of offsite hydrolysate shipment on receiving communities; and their perspective on the criteria for making a decision on whether offsite shipment of the hydrolysate would be warranted. Additionally, the CAC chair and the CDCAB co-chair outlined their expectations for this committee’s study and, in particular, their expectation that the CAC/CDCAB would play an active role in decision making by participating in the development of criteria for determining whether and how future offsite shipments of hydrolysate occur and by participating in discussions of emerging operational issues (see written statement in Appendix B).
The CAC/CDCAB’s opposition to offsite shipment of hydrolysate has a long and well-documented history.20 For example, a statement provided to the National Research Council (NRC) and developed jointly by the Colorado and Kentucky CACs in 2008, lists specific concerns about offsite shipment of hydrolysate:
- Increased risks associated with transportation,
- Opposition from receiving communities,
- Negative economic impact on the local community,
- Probable cost increases and schedule slippage,
- Inaccurate and inflated cost savings attributed to offsite shipment,
- Political opposition,
- Possible litigation,
- Risk to the BGCAPP permit caused by eliminating
- onsite secondary treatment,
- Violation of environmental justice principles, and
- Elimination of potential legacy use of onsite treatment facilities—for example, those at BGAD (NRC, 2008).
In his statement to the committee in January 2015, the CAC chair confirmed the CAC/CDCAB’s continuing opposition to offsite shipment of hydrolysate. However, he also emphasized that the chemical munitions stored at BGAD must be destroyed as soon and as safely as possible. Furthermore, he expressed his concern that the supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) treatment process might fail to perform as expected. He opined that members of the CAC/CDCAB recognize there are bound to be issues with a pilot plant such as BGCAPP, and failure of the supercritical water oxidation or other key processes could therefore pose a dilemma for them.21
The CAC/CDCAB presented to this committee a set of criteria for offsite shipment of hydrolysate, should such a move be deemed necessary. Their bottom line is that offsite shipment would be considered acceptable if it were the only alternative and “only for that portion of the neutralization output that cannot be processed through planned secondary treatment and/or stored onsite until mitigation is achieved.”22 Conditions that might necessitate offsite shipment were suggested:
- If secondary treatment of hydrolysate is unable to keep up with neutralization output,
- All feasible mitigation measures have been evaluated, and
- Mitigation is impossible or would require that plant operations be suspended for an extensive period of time (“extensive” should be defined within the study).23
In addition, the CAC/CDCAB recommended that the committee consider alternative onsite treatment options should onsite downstream treatments fail. One such option is modifying the explosive destruction technology that will be used to destroy the mustard munitions at BGAD to process excess hydrolysate. Their recommendation for alternative onsite treatment is addressed in Chapter 1.
The CAC/CDCAB’s written statement and interview with the committee reflected their very active involvement
20 Their opposition to the offsite shipment was reinforced by the CDCAB co-chair’s link to the Kentucky Environmental Foundation and the national CWWG. See Appendix A for more detail.
21 In the past, the CAC/CDCAB agreed to offsite shipment as part of Operation Swift Solution, but at the same time stated that their agreement and the program should not be viewed as a precedent.
22 CAC/CDCAB written statement to the committee (see Appendix B).
and positive experiences in the ACWA Dialogue process and their subsequent participation in BGCAPP activities and decisions, as discussed briefly in this chapter and in greater detail in Appendix A. In their statements, they made clear their expectation that they would play an active role alongside PEO ACWA, site staff at BGCAPP and BGAD, and Kentucky regulators in (1) developing protocols that identify the circumstances under which offsite shipment of hydrolysate would occur and (2) developing a means for information sharing and providing input on issues that bear on any decision regarding offsite shipment, such as the level of hydrolysate storage that might trigger shipment. They also noted the need to address the tension between proactive planning related to regulatory requirements on the one hand and facilitating the process for shipping hydrolysate offsite on the other—in other words, the concern that advanced planning would make it easier to decide to ship hydrolysate offsite.
The CAC chair and the CDCAB co-chair described the current process for involvement in decisions as a transparent “back-and-forth relationship” and that “if there is an issue that needs to be raised by us or them we work through it incrementally and work towards agreement about how to proceed. We have done this all the time and it has worked each time.” While recognizing that their legislated role is consultative and that they have “no authority to do anything,” they nevertheless noted that “we carry some weight because of how we operate. . . . If something is repulsive to the community, we have a history of ‘making it known.’ ” 24
In discussing the CAC/CBCAB perspective on how BGCAPP should make decisions about shipping hydrolysate offsite, they said “this is something we want to work out with [BGCAPP], we want to be part of the process” and “the whole purpose of this exercise is to do that with them.” They acknowledged that many details are involved that require additional consideration. For example, the question of what percentage of total hydrolysate storage capacity being reached would serve as a threshold for offsite shipment could not be answered at this time. Rather, “we need to address that question legitimately through a process, we want to be involved in that process—the CAC and CDCAB.”25
When asked how they envisaged their involvement in developing criteria or in making decisions that could lead to offsite shipment, the CDCAB co-chair stated that “what the NRC report comes up with about decision points will be very interesting for us, and a starting point for many discussions here,” and provided the following, detailed description of the process they envisaged:
ACWA is already discussing this with us and we assume it will continue. The way we see it is the NRC report is a tool that ACWA will use in the context of what they need to consider on this aspect of things. They and we will read the report, we will sit down—the Secondary Waste Working Group will deal with it first and will come to some draft proposal that will include criteria points associated with a contingency plan and then bring it to the full body of the CAC to create a recommendation to ACWA. Hopefully by that time, recommendations will emerge that are acceptable to the regulators [Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection], CAC, the Secondary Waste Working Group, Bechtel, Army—there will be a series of meetings so that ultimately we will get a recommendation about how to proceed. That is the process that will be used. Once the NRC report comes out, I am sure there will be a series of meetings to walk through the options and weigh against criteria, and also the considerations embedded in draft recommendations. Bechtel Parsons and ACWA, in the normal course of events, will participate and present their insights and recommendations at our meetings, so they will know where we are moving and what we are discussing. In this way, we will get everyone together as early as possible and there are no surprises. . . . We said it earlier—no surprises. You don’t surprise us, we don’t surprise you. No surprises on both sides, that is the mantra of the chemical weapons program in Kentucky.26
Concerns about meaningful public involvement expressed by the CAC/CDCAB extend to potential receiving communities as well, in the event that offsite shipment of hydrolysate is deemed necessary. In common with the CWWG and the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, the CAC/CDCAB firmly believe in environmental justice principles, which they interpret as requiring that a community take care of its own wastes and not impose them on other, perhaps more vulnerable, communities. Consequently, they strongly believe that sites scheduled to receive hydrolysate shipped offsite need to be engaged in planning for such shipment.
Consistent with this viewpoint, the CAC chair and the CDCAB co-chair expressed concern that the committee’s statement of task was too narrow and did not extend to consideration of the location and concerns of communities that could potentially receive any hydrolysate shipments. In discussing their expectations for the NRC study during the committee’s January 2015 meeting, they emphasized the importance of identifying the location of any potential site or community that would receive the waste, as well as information on the technology that would be used, as part of planning and decision making for offsite shipment of hydrolysate in the event that such disposal is deemed necessary. This would include the schedule impact from potential regulatory, legal, and political opposition in the receiving communities. They emphasized in the March 25, 2015, telephone conversation their concern that the residents of these communities need to know in advance about potential shipments and have an opportunity to take part in decisions that would affect them; the co-chair of the CDCAB said “it
24 March 25, 2015, conference call, op. cit.
is not legitimate to spring them [hydrolysate shipments] on a community that has not been involved in the decision—it is not an acceptable or ethical approach when dealing with these kinds of materials.”27 They recommended considering past experiences with offsite hydrolysate shipment, including those that were quite controversial. The CDCAB co-chair warned also that trust and acceptance are not guaranteed and that, if hydrolysate shipments are needed, PEO ACWA and all parties involved would have to work out a process for involving the receiving communities to avoid confrontation with the communities and with the CWWG, as had previously happened with hydrolysate shipments from the Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility in Indiana. Additionally, he compared the shipments from Indiana with past shipments conducted from BGCAPP. As part of Operation Swift Solution at BGCAPP, the “community was engaged with our assistance” and shipments were accomplished “with no protests, no lawsuits, no opposition, no politics . . . in part because it was a smaller amount, but more importantly because they were part of a process before the decision was made.”28
As demonstrated in discussions and by their statement provided to the committee in January 2015, the CAC/CDCAB recommended that emphasis be placed on the contingent nature of this study. The CAC/CDCAB’s role in decision making was an important theme. They continue to oppose offsite shipment of hydrolysate, and they regard the agreement on technologies planned for use at BGCAPP and reached as a result of the ACWA Dialogue process as a commitment to the community. They recognize, however, that operational issues are bound to arise in a pilot plant, and that it may not be possible to fulfill PEO ACWA’s commitment to onsite treatment. From their perspective, PEO ACWA’s commitment is one that can be abandoned only as a final resort, and as much as possible as a temporary measure, when no other onsite treatment options exist (see Appendix B, CAC/CDCAB written statement).
The ACWA Dialogue experience was pivotal for local participants around BGCAPP. Their experience in that process has since been reinforced by their experience of meaningful involvement in decisions regarding BGCAPP and the building of transparency and trust between PEO ACWA and the community. Indeed, based on these experiences, CAC/CDCAB members hold high expectations for the scope and conduct of this study and for their role in decisions concerning potential offsite hydrolysate shipment. Their expectations include, in particular, opportunities for CAC/CDCAB members to provide input into analyses, evaluations, and the development of criteria identifying under what conditions offsite hydrolysate shipment would occur. Furthermore, they expect PEO ACWA will continue to provide regular updates on the status of operations as they evolve, to identify the technology and the location of receiving communities, and to consider previous positions on hydrolysate shipments of such communities and the CAC/CDCAB, including proactive information sharing and meaningful engagement.
Finding 3-1. The local and regional public, as represented by the CAC/CDCAB, agree on the need to destroy the chemical munitions stockpile at BGAD as soon as possible and in reducing risk and ensuring the safety of workers and the community.
Finding 3-2. The CAC/CDCAB continue to oppose offsite transport of the hydrolysate and to regard the agreement reached in the Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives Dialogue process for onsite treatment of hydrolysate as a commitment to the community around BGCAPP.
Finding 3-3. The CAC/CDCAB recognize that offsite shipment of the hydrolysate may be warranted. But, they qualify this recognition by insisting that any offsite shipment of hydrolysate should be viewed as much as possible as a temporary measure to be initiated only as a final resort.
Finding 3-4. The Program Executive Office for Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, BGCAPP, the CAC, the CDCAB, and the community have invested considerable effort in building a solid foundation of trust and transparency and a workable institutionalized structure for meaningful stakeholder involvement. However, continued trust and acceptance must be nurtured.
Finding 3-5. The Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives Dialogue process and subsequent public involvement opportunities have established high expectations about how and when the CAC/CDCAB should be involved.
Finding 3-6. Should offsite shipment of hydrolysate be deemed necessary, public concerns about possible impacts on the receiving communities could stall such shipments.
Recommendation 3-1. In collaboration with the CAC/CDCAB, the Program Executive Office for Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives should institutionalize a transparent consultation process that builds on the existing foundation and working group structure to ensure meaningful stakeholder input into analyses, evaluations, and decision criteria related to potential offsite shipment of hydrolysate
28 Operation Swift Solution involved the disposal of three deteriorating ton containers that held GB agent and related breakdown product. The GB in these containers was chemically neutralized in a special facility at BGAD and the hydrolysate was shipped offsite for final disposal, http://www.peoacwa.army.mil/bgcapp/about-bgcapp/operation-swift-solution/.
and that provides opportunities for engaging with communities that would receive hydrolysate.
Recommendation 3-2. To maintain the existing policy of “no surprises” and to help alleviate concerns about proactive planning, agreement about the process for consultation should be in place before the BGCAPP initiates advance regulatory and logistical planning for offsite shipment of hydrolysates.
NRC (National Research Council). 2008. Review of Secondary Waste Disposal Planning for the Blue Grass and Pueblo Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plants. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.
Poortinga, W., and N.F. Pidgeon. 2003. Exploring the dimensionality of trust in risk regulation, Risk Analysis 23: 961-972.