June 12, 2001
Ex-DOE Head Joins Anti-Nuke Trustees

By Jennifer McKee
Journal Staff Writer

Bill Richardson, who has served as a New Mexico congressman, ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. Energy secretary, has been elected to the trustees of an environmental group that has repeatedly sued the Energy Department.

Richardson was unanimously elected to the board of trustees on Thursday of the National Resource Defense Council, a 31-year-old environmental and public health organization with 450,000 members nationwide. The group opposes nuclear weapons and works to halt global warming, among other things.

As head of U.S. Energy Department, Richardson was charged with overseeing the nation's weapons labs "including Los Alamos National Laboratory" which invented, perfected and maintains America's nuclear-weapons arsenal. Since retiring with the end of the Clinton administration, Richardson has also joined the boards of two Texas-based oil companies. Allan Metrick, communications director for the Defense Council, said those things were not strikes against Richardson.

"He brings the respect of many world leaders who are concerned about climate change and global warming," Metrick said. "His access to a large portion of the global community will be really beneficial to our organization."

Richardson joins 41 other trustees, among them actor Robert Redford, Chief Operating Officer of Warner Bros. Alan Horn, and George Woodwell, the man who first sounded an alarm over global warming.

Richardson is the first and only trustee to ever head a cabinet-level government agency, Metrick said.

"We thought he was an excellent administrator," he said of Richardson's stint as Energy secretary. "He brings to the board geographic diversity, ethnic diversity and a great intellect and drive."

Metrick said it would be "inappropriate" to disqualify Richardson from the board of the defense council because Richardson's former duties as top caretaker of several thousand nuclear bombs and warheads.

Trustees, who are not paid, meet four times a year to set the organization's policy, Metrick said. Trustees serve two-year terms and can only be re-elected by a vote of the entire organization. They also must agree to the group's principles, said Christopher Paine, a senior analyst with NRDC who often works on projects in New Mexico, which includes pledging to support a variety of environmental and health concerns such as nuclear proliferation and global warming.

Paine and Greg Mello of the Santa Fe-based Los Alamos Study Group, which has been a watchdog of the Los Alamos lab for years, said Richardson's new role as a trustee bodes well for New Mexico, especially since Richardson seems to be headed for a race for governor.

"His decision to put his counter down on the side of the environment and go with that is great," Mello said. "If this means he's attaching more importance to the environment and recognizing how threatened it is, both in New Mexico and worldwide, I can only say it's a good thing." Richardson was traveling Monday and could not be reached for comment. Karen Golembeski, Richardson's spokesperson, said Richardson joined "the superb international organization primarily for its work on global climate change."