Note: This story was updated at 12 p.m.
Sue Cange, former head of the federal government’s cleanup program in Oak Ridge, has been appointed as a visiting scholar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, a spokesperson said Wednesday.
It’s a two-year appointment as a visiting scholar in civil and environmental engineering that started July 5, Vanderbilt University spokesperson Jim Patterson said. Cange has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environmental engineering from Vanderbilt University.
Cange remains a paid U.S. Department of Energy employee, Patterson said. At Vanderbilt, she will help to establish a nuclear environmental engineering curriculum and internship program.
Cange is a former manager of the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management. She had most recently worked at U.S. Department of Energy headquarters in Washington, D.C. In December, she was named principal deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management, or EM. She had previously been interim principal deputy assistant secretary, temporarily serving in the role formerly filled by Mark Whitney, who took a job in the private sector. Whitney is also a former manager of the Environmental Management program in Oak Ridge.
In January, Cange became acting assistant secretary for environmental management, the Exchange Monitor reported. She replaced Monica Regalbuto on a temporary basis, at about the time that President Donald Trump was inaugurated. Regalbuto was the Obama administration’s final appointee to the position that oversees DOE’s $6-billion-a-year legacy nuclear cleanup program.
But last week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that James M. Owendoff had been promoted to principal deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Environmental Management, or EM, replacing Cange. Owendoff had served as a senior adviser to the assistant EM secretary since January 2010, DOE said.
Owendoff will also serve as the acting assistant secretary for environmental management until a presidential nominee is submitted and confirmed by the Senate. That was the position to which Cange had been appointed in January.
Owendoff’s appointment raised a question about where Cange went or might be going, since she had been named principal deputy assistant secretary in December and acting assistant secretary in January. DOE spokespeople in Washington, D.C., have not been available to respond to questions in phone calls and they did not respond to an email.
The Exchange Monitor reported in a subscription-only story on June 30 that Cange was headed to Vanderbilt. The university confirmed her two-year visiting scholar appointment on Wednesday.
Cange, who has nearly three decades of DOE leadership experience, was a founding member of Oak Ridge’s reindustrialization program, which transfers underused assets to the private sector to accelerate cleanup and promote economic development.
Before her service in Oak Ridge, Cange worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, developing policy to govern work under Superfund, a federal program designed to fund cleanup of contaminated sites.
Her replacement as acting head of DOE’s nuclear cleanup program last week was the most prominent of a trio of June departures from the Office of Environmental Management’s headquarters in Washington, the Exchange Monitor said.
As for Owendoff, DOE said one of his first actions will be to initiate a full EM program review to “identify opportunities to improve the effectiveness and execution of the nuclear legacy waste cleanup program.”
Owendoff has been an acting assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Environmental Management before. He served from September 1995 to November 2003, and again from November 2005 to January 2010. His other positions have included chief operations officer, deputy assistant secretary for environmental restoration, deputy assistant secretary for science and technology, and chief office of project recovery. He also served in the Department of Energy’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management from November 2003 to November 2005 as the associate director for integration.
Before joining the Department of Energy and retiring from active duty in the U.S. Air Force, Owendoff served in the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Environmental Security and served as chief of the Air Force Environmental Restoration Division, DOE said. He was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force as a second lieutenant in June 1968, immediately following his graduation from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He held a series of successively responsible leadership positions during his 25-year career in the U.S. Air Force, which included assignments throughout the United States and overseas, and he has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University, DOE said.
EM was created in 1989 and charged with cleaning up the radioactive legacy of the Manhattan Project, the Cold War, and World War II. It is the largest environmental cleanup program in the world. Today, following 25 years of progress, only 16 of the original 109 Manhattan Project sites remain in need of cleanup, DOE said. These sites present some of the most challenging and riskiest remediation work left to be performed, the department said.
The annual allocation for DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management is more than $400 million.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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