A Procedural Evaluation of an Analytic-Deliberative Process: The Columbia River Comprehensive Impact Assessment


  • Information on the CRCIA and its relationship to the Hanford Groundwater/Vadose Zone Integration Project can be viewed at http://www.hanford.gov/crcia/crcia.htm (October 23, 2000).

  • See Boiko et al.(11) for a more detailed description of DOE's SSABs, and an analysis of the establishment of the Hanford Advisory Board.

  • The Tri-Party Agreement (TPA) is a federal facility consent order designed to bring the Hanford Site into compliance with environmental laws. Signed in 1989 by the DOE, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Washington State Department of Ecology, the TPA contains dates, or milestones, by which certain clean-up activities must be complete. The TPA also established a division of authority for clean-up tasks: DOE is the lead agency, which means it has the primary responsibility for coordinating clean-up efforts, while EPA and Ecology serve as regulators with enforcement powers.

  • The Part II CRCIA document includes a disclaimer that states, “Publication … is being performed as a public service … [and] does not constitute endorsement of the opinions, conclusions, or recommendations contained therein by the U.S. DOE. … For Part II, the role of the U.S. DOE was not to negotiate its position with respect to the individual requirements as they were being discussed, but to host meetings and participate in a non-negotiating role in the development of the requirements as a total package … Thus, the term `CRCIA Team' as used in Part II refers to the team members described in `Requirements for a Columbia River Comprehensive Impact Assessment', with DOE playing a hosting and non-negotiating role.”(24)

  • For information on the development of these scenarios, see Harris and Harper(25) and Harper.(26)

  • The “Hanford Groundwater/Vadose Zone Integration Project,” website (http://www.bhi-erc.com/vadose/vados.htm) states, “RL and a team of contractors led by Bechtel Hanford Inc., is currently developing an integrated site-wide plan to characterize the Hanford Site vadose zone and groundwater, and to assess all relevant site programs and plans, with the primary objective of protecting the Columbia River. Involving the Tribal Nations, Stakeholders, and regulators are [sic] an integral part of this project plan” (November 13, 2000).

  • The question sets and additional details of this method can be examined in either the Appendix of Webler(15) or Appendix A of Guglielmo.(27) The latter is available on the Web at <http://www.sma.washington.edu/people/students/thesis/guglielmo/Index.html>.

  • Ideally, audiotapes or precise auditive transcripts should have been reviewed to do full justice to the discourse analysis concept. However, we reviewed only written summaries of the Project Management Team meetings, as these were the only records available.

  • Most of Webler's questions deal with factual issues, as opposed to matters of opinion, so there is little room for deviation. For example: Was everyone able to suggest items for the agenda? Did everyone have equal access to sources for definitions of terms relevant to the discourse? Was there peer review and independent verification of scientific data and knowledge? Was there an effort to achieve representation of formal interest group organizations?

  • Webler(15) argues that subjectivity is inherent in the application of his framework to case studies.

  • Refer to Chapter 4 and Appendix B of Guglielmo,(27) available on the Internet at <http://www.sma.washington.edu/people/students/thesis/guglielmo/Index.html> to view the answers to Webler's question sets, their subsequent scoring, and the path to the final score tabulations displayed in the text tables.

  • The two questions ask whether all participants have equal opportunity to suggest items for the agenda and the underlying rules for discourse, respectively.(15)

  • The five objectives developed by the NRC committee are: “getting the science right,”“getting the right science,”“getting the right participation,”“getting the participation right,” and “developing an accurate, balanced and informative synthesis.”(3)

  • Strictly speaking, discourse analysis does not provide a basis for judging the success of outcomes, focusing as it does on the quality of participation. The implication is that better participation leads to improved understanding, as noted in Section 1. Individual satisfaction with outcome is a participant-focused measure that was clearly of great importance to our interviewees, who were not satisfied with the outcome of the CRCIA.

Thomas Leschine School of Marine Affairs, Box 355685, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195; tml@u.washington.edu


The U.S. Department of Energy's Columbia River Comprehensive Impact Assessment (CRCIA) was an ambitious attempt to direct its cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation toward the most significant risks to the Columbia River resulting from past plutonium production. DOE's approach was uncommonly open, including tribal, regulatory agency, and other Hanford interest group representatives on the board that was to develop the assessment approach. The CRCIA process had attributes of the “analytic-deliberative” process for risk assessment recommended by the National Research Council. Nevertheless, differences between the DOE and other participants over what was meant by the term “comprehensive” in the group's charge, coupled with differing perceptions of the likely effectiveness of remediation efforts in reducing risks, were never resolved. The CRCIA effort became increasingly fragmented and the role its products were to play in influencing future clean-up decisions increasingly ambiguous. A procedural evaluation of the CRCIA process, based on Thomas Webler's procedural normative model of public participation, reveals numerous instances in which theoretical-normative discourse disconnects occurred. These had negative implications for both the basic procedural dimensions of Webler's model—fairness and competence. Tribal and other interest group representatives lacked the technical resources necessary to make or challenge what philosopher Jurgens Habermas terms cognitive validity claims, while DOE and its contractors did not challenge normative claims made by tribal representatives. The results are cautionary for implementation of the analytic-deliberative process. They highlight the importance of bringing rigor to the evaluation of the quality of the deliberation component of risk characterization via the analytic-deliberative process, as well as to the analytic component.