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Primary Member, Academia and Public Interest Groups, Royalty Policy Committee

Van Romero was named as a primary member of the Department of the Interior’s Royalty Policy Committee, which will advise Secretary Ryan Zinke “on policy and strategies to improve management of the multi-billion dollar, federal and American Indian mineral revenue program.” Romero is one of the members representing “Academia and Public Interest Groups.”

Van Romero, who holds a B.S. and M.S. in Physics from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and a Ph.D. in Physics from the State University of New York, is “widely known as an explosives expert.” Romero has worked in numerous labs around the country: from 1979 to 1993 he was the manager of the Thermal Hydraulic Program at General Electric Knolls Atomic Power Lab in Schenectady, then from 1993 to 1994 he worked at the Superconducting Super Collider in Dallas. The following year he worked at the Sandia National Lab in Albuquerque. From 1997 to 2005, Romero was the National Chairman for the National Domestic Preparedness Program, which “prepares first responders for terrorist attacks and coordinates efforts to standardize programs across the nation.” Since 1995, Romero has been a physics professor at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. He also “serves as chief official of the Research and Economic Development Division” at New Mexico Tech, which is “the most active explosives testing facility in the U.S.”

Sources: [U.S. Department of the Interior, Press Release, 09/01/17, Dr. Van D. Romero, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, accessed 09/18/17, “How to Solve a Terrorist Bombing,” PBS, 05/28/13, and Van D. Romero Vita, accessed 09/18/17]

Other Information

On September 11, 2001, Van Romero told the Albuquerque Journal that he believed “that explosive devices caused the collapse” of the World Trade Center towers because “‘it would be difficult for something from the plane to trigger an event like that.'”

He said that the “collapse of the buildings appears ‘too methodical’ to be a chance result of airplanes colliding with the structures.”

“‘My opinion is, based on the videotapes, that after the airplanes hit the World Trade Center there were some explosive devices inside the buildings that caused the towers to collapse,’ Romero said. […] Romero said the collapse of the structures resembled those of controlled implosions used to demolish old structures. ‘It would be difficult for something from the plane to trigger an event like that,'” he said. [Olivier Uyttebrouck, “N.M. Tech expert says N.Y. towers were likely rigged with devices,” Albuquerque Journal, 09/11/01]

After conspiracy theorists “seized on Romero’s comments as evidence for their argument that someone else, possibly the U.S. government, was behind the attack on the Trade Center,” Romero said he believed “there were no explosives in the World Trade Center towers.”

‘Certainly the fire is what caused the building to fail.'” Romero said he was “‘very upset'” about being “bombarded with electronic mail from the conspiracy theorists,” adding, “‘I’m not trying to say anything did or didn’t happen.'” [John Fleck, “Fire, Not Extra Explosives, Doomed Buildings, Expert Says,” Albuquerque Journal, 09/21/01]

Van Romero “played a key role in New Mexico Tech’s efforts to purchase the town of Playas,” New Mexico, which “is now used for research and training in the areas of Homeland, Border and Energy Security.” New Mexico Tech “closed the town to newcomers,” but some of the residents who remained had “mixed feelings about their decision to remain in Playas,” where simulated terror attacks are held regularly.

In 2005, Van Romero “played a key role in New Mexico Tech’s efforts to purchase the town of Playas New Mexico. This modern day ghost town is now used for research and training in the areas of Homeland, Border and Energy Security.” [Van D. Romero Vita, accessed 09/18/17]

Playas, New Mexico, “once an idyllic piece of rural America,” was “built by the Phelps Dodge Corp. in the 1970s to house workers at its copper smelter plant nearby.” However, after “the factory closed in 1999, all but a handful of Playas’s inhabitants left.” In fall 2004, the “New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (better known as New Mexico Tech) used a $5 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase the 640-acre township.” The town became “part of a network of academic institutions that specialize in training emergency workers to respond to various threats. […] New Mexico specializes in explosives. Letter bombs, pipe bombs, car bombs and the improvised explosive devices placed on roadways are among the easiest of weapons for terrorist to create. That is why many believe they have been so difficult to control in Iraq and are the most likely to make their way to the United States first. ‘This is something that terrorists have been using for a long time and we believe they’ll use here in the future,’ said Van Romero, vice president for research and economic development at New Mexico Tech.”

New Mexico Tech “closed the town to newcomers” and “existing families were relocated to three streets on the eastern side of town.” However, some residents had “mixed feelings about their decision to remain in Playas.”

“‘I don’t know how long we will keep living here because of this,’ Kathy [Johnson, a Playas resident] said. When residents first heard New Mexico Tech was buying the town, she said, ‘people assumed it would be like the old days. But that’s not the way it is.'” [Ariana Eunjung Cha, “New Mexico Plays Home To Terror Town, U.S.A.,Washington Post, 05/08/05]