Supplemental Comments Regarding Composition of NAS Slurry Committee

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Kentucky Resources Council, Inc.
Post Office Box 1070
Frankfort, Kentucky 40602
(502) 875-2428
(502) 875-2845 fax

March 27, 2001

President Bruce Alberts
National Academies
2101 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington D.C. 20418 By fax 202-334-1377 and e-mail
Robert Hamilton
National Research Council By fax 202-334-3362
2101 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington D.C. 20418

Re: Supplemental Comments Regarding Composition of Committee and Selection of Consultants; Study On Preventing Coal Waste Impoundment Failures and Breakthroughs, Project Identification Number BESR-U-01-01-A

Dear Mssrs. Alberts and Hamilton:

This letter is transmitted on behalf of the Citizens Coal Council and Kentucky Resources Council, Inc. in response to a telephone conversation with Mr. Hamilton yesterday, in which Mr. Hamilton indicated to myself and Carolyn Johnson of the Citizens Coal Council that in response to our letters of March 21 and March 23 regarding the composition of the Committee, Selection of Consultants and Scope of Work, that the National Academy of Science would take these actions:
  • Remove one or perhaps two committee members for conflict of interest;
  • Add one environmental representative;
  • Eliminate the use of consultants for the study;
  • Develop an e-mail list for contacts.

In response to the other concerns raised in the March 21 and March 23 letters, I understood Mr. Hamilton to decline to suspend further meetings pending resolution of the committee membership issues. Additionally, it was believed by Mr. Hamilton that the scope of work was sufficiently broad to address our stated concerns.

I am writing in advance of your meeting today, to reiterate our continuing concern. While I appreciate the elimination of the consultants' role, since many of those identified had direct conflicts both from a perspective of avoiding review of "one's own work" and because of active ties to regulated parties with financial stakes in the outcome of the study, we remain deeply concerned on these points:

  1. We believe that, consistent with the conflicts policy of the National Academies, that all individuals with current client relationships to coal companies using coal waste impoundments, or who have designed or certified existing or proposed coal waste impoundments, or who work for companies that perform or have performed such coal waste impoundment work, must be removed from the committee panel.

    While such individuals would be welcome to participate byway of testimony before the Committee, those with a financial stake in the outcome because of potential consequences to current clients, and those whose work may be subject to review, simply should not be in a position of developing the study recommendations.
  2. We believe that the addition of a single environmental representative is not sufficient to make the committee composition reflect the clear intent of Congress that the panel be broadly representative of a range of interests and backgrounds, including labor, environmental, citizen, and industry. With the removal of one industry representative and the addition of a single environmental or "non-aligned" representative, the panel would remain decidedly weighted with individuals with direct ties to the coal industry. Until the National Academies achieve a committee composition closer to parity in the representation of labor, citizen, and environmental representatives to offset the current industry weighting of the panel, serious doubts will remain regarding the committee process and product.
  3. Improvement of public notice and involvement provisions relative to the report and committee process is needed.

    We believe that the taxpayers have a right and legitimate expectation of timely, no-cost and complete electronic access to all significant documents related to the committee study including posting on the website a complete administrative record of the proceedings of the study committee, to include:
  • Advance notice of all committee and subcommittee meetings,
  • Names and contact information for all committee and subcommittee members,
  • Minutes of all committee and subcommittee meetings,
  • Copies of any written testimony and other documents provided to the committee from the public and interested parties.

In closing, we remain gravely concerned with the failure to suspend further substantive work of the committee until these matters are resolved. I understand that subcommittees have already been established and that further meetings will be occurring during the first week of April. The continued scheduling of substantive workplaces any new committee member at an ever-greater disadvantage both in terms of committee work and in terms of adjusting their schedule and making travel arrangements. We believe that any meetings should be postponed until the composition issues are satisfactorily resolved.

We will be submitting, by close of business tomorrow, a list of proposed candidates from the environmental and citizen perspectives for your consideration. We hope that these unresolved matters can be addressed in a manner that will restore a shaken public confidence in the study process and outcome.

With concern,

Tom FitzGerald


By Kentucky Resources Council on 03/28/2001 5:32 PM
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