Communities adjacent to DOE facilities have been heavily impacted by DOE downsizing over the past several years. In order to maintain their quality of life, these communities are striving to diversify their economies and become self sufficient. To accomplish these goals, the communities require DOE to act as a partner to progress.
In 2000, DOE rewrote the regulations for its contractor management and operating contracts, removing provisions which had been in place for 15 years, that specifically required contractors to engage in economic diversification activities within communities adjacent to DOE facilities. The new regulations include a section regarding Community Commitments, which have no legal enforceability and which may in many cases be ignored by contractors.
ECA commends the Department of Energy for developing Interim Final Rules on economic development and indemnification. However, DOE must either reconsider modifying the Interim Final Rule or implement clear guidance to its field level staff and field office managers to ensure that the Interim Final Rule is properly implemented for the purpose to which it is developed - to assist communities to become economically self-sufficient and to ensure that the Department does not transfer its environmental contamination legacy and liability to local communities who are redeveloping the property.
The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 authorized, but did not mandate, the Department of Energy to make a PILT and community burdens payments to local governments hosting DOE facilities. While DOE has made some payments using this authority, PILT payments should be made equitably among energy communities and in a timely manner. Further, payments should be based upon existing land value rather than the value at the time the land was taken and reserved for federal use. Since the Department of Energy and its contractors do not contribute to the general tax revenues that maintain the community's infrastructure, particularly roadways, a mechanism is needed for DOE to directly fund some portion of the community burden incurred for infrastructure and public service requirements that have specifically, but not exclusively, benefited DOE operations.