By RICK GREENE
Southern Ohio Today
A local councilman who was a member of the Portsmouth Site Specific Advisory Board has not been reappointed to the board despite two years remaining on his six-year term limit.
The Portsmouth SSAB is a board made up of volunteers from Jackson, Pike, Ross and Scioto counties that provides advice to the U.S. Department of Energy on matters related to the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant near Piketon.
Dennis Foreman, a member of the Piketon Village Council, had served a pair of two-year terms on the board, but DOE did not approve his third two-year term.
“I was told the new (membership) package came out and I was not included in the new one. I asked why I was not included and was told the decision was made on multiple levels and that it was final,” Foreman said. “They gave me no explanation.”
DOE declined an interview request from Southern Ohio Today and did not answer prepared questions for this article, but did provide a statement through a spokesperson.
“The Office of Environmental Management has a long history of interested stakeholders informing DOE decision making. The Site Specific Advisory Board (SSAB) is one example,” the statement read. “Following Federal Advisory Committee Act guidelines, EM incorporates a rotating diversity of views on its boards and strives to provide a productive environment for board members to conduct business.”
Foreman is an admitted critic of DOE and an outspoken opponent of a radiological landfill that is being constructed as part of the Department’s remedy to disposition more than two million cubic yards of waste that will be generated from the cleanup of the Portsmouth site.
Foreman also took issue with the reappointments of two members of the board’s leadership, Chair Robert Berry and Vice Chair Carlton Cave – both of Portsmouth – who were extended beyond their six-year term limits.
Foreman pointed out that a previous board chair – William Henderson – had requested an extension in 2016, but was denied. Henderson had been critical of DOE’s Waste Disposition Record of Decision in 2015 that he said did not include community demands that were communicated in the years leading up to the decision and what he called DOE’s lack of public engagement on the landfill’s Waste Acceptance Criteria.
“It looks pretty obvious to me. If everyone doesn’t fall in line with what they want then it looks like you don’t get extensions,” said Foreman, who said he was also responsible for formal SSAB recommendations related to a robotics laboratory and a workforce development program, among other initiatives. “I was critical of DOE at times, but still brought forth things that were positive and I still didn’t get extended.”
Berry countered that he believed the reason for his extension was because of the low number of members on the board. The maximum number of members who can serve on the Portsmouth board is 20 and eight members presently serve.
“When Will applied for the extension it was at a time when the board was pretty full. Things have gotten so down at this point that they just wanted to keep us on so the board would have some continuity,” said Berry, who said he reapplied at DOE’s request. “I think if we can get at least 15 people back on the board and get them up to speed, I think they would tell me it would be time to step aside. I think that’s what happened to Will.”
Henderson, who served on the board from 2010-2016, said he recommends DOE find a way to be more consistent in how it administers term limits.
“What I have a problem with is a (board member at a DOE site in Hanford, Washington) who has been valuable to the site of Hanford for many years, yet other boards around the country are never allowed to develop that kind of leadership and those political connections,” said Henderson, who like Foreman called into question the appointment of Portsmouth SSAB members with close ties to DOE contractors.
“I mean no disrespect to any individuals because they are volunteers, I really don’t, but if you want to be taken seriously, you need a legitimate group of people who are a legitimate cross section of the community,” Henderson said. “Because if you don’t it’s just a rubber stamp, which is where they are now.”
In its statement, DOE indicated a number of factors go into a person being appointed to the Portsmouth SSAB and sister boards around the DOE complex.
“Diversity factors can include education, regional representation, affiliation with civic or other organizations, representation of local governments, etc.”
Foreman indicated he was the only elected official on the board and that he believes it is important for the SSAB to have representation from local bodies of government.
“I believe the board has lost its validity and credibility,” he said.
Cave had no comment on the matter.