2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2000 13:19:22 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Final letter against Section 342
[This is the final, signed version of the environmental group letter to
the U.S. Senate in opposition to Section 342. We circulated a draft last

June 6, 2000

Dear Senator: 

On behalf of millions of our members nationwide, we urge you to support
the Kerry amendment to strip an extremely damaging legislative provision
included in the National Defense Authorization bill for fiscal year 2001
(sec. 342 of S. 2549). This provision would make a permanent change in
the law that could delay and even block DOD from having to pay civil
penalties for environmental violations occurring at DOD facilities. We
strongly urge you to support this effort to remove it from the
authorization bill this year.

Section 342 of the authorization bill would require specific
congressional authorization for the payment of environmental fines and
penalties that exceed $1.5 million, or those that are based on the
application of economic benefit or size-of-business criteria. This
provision also would block  the use of funds to implement supplemental
environmental projects that may be required as part of, or in lieu of, a
proposed civil penalty. Section 342 would negate the current law that
requires that the DOD pay fines and penalties assessed by state and
federal regulatory agencies for violations of environmental laws just
like every other federal agency or private party that violates the law.
This provision has far-reaching ramifications and yet has not had the
benefit of any public hearings to allow the Congress to examine the full
impacts of the action. 

This provision was added specifically in response to a large
environmental fine proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. At Fort Wainwright, the Army operates the
largest coal burning power plant owned by the U.S. military. According
to EPA documents,  violations at this facility appear to be more
extensive than any found to date in private coal-fired power plants. The
Fort Wainwright facility clearly should pay state and federal penalties
for at least 11 years of continual and serious violations of clean air
standards (which may have even given rise to at least one criminal
investigation by the Army). The Kerry amendment would also require a
General Accounting Office report to Congress on the circumstances
surrounding the Fort Wainwright facility.    

Section 342 would undermine years of progress at federal, state and
local levels towards improved environmental compliance by federal
agencies. Congress has repeatedly declared that both state and federal
environmental regulators should have the clear authority to enforce most
environmental laws at federal facilities, including Defense Department
installations. For example, in 1992 Congress enacted the Federal
Facilities Compliance Act, clarifying regulatory agencies' authority to
enforce laws governing the treatment, storage, disposal, and cleanup of
hazardous wastes. In signing that law, President Bush noted that it
represented a step towards fulfilling his promise to the American people
that "the Federal Government live up to the same environmental standards
that apply to private citizens." Implementation of Section 342 could
severely undermine this trend towards better compliance and likely will
result in increased violations.

This provision  could create a perverse incentive for the military to
incur large fines so that it can seek respite from Congress.
Additionally, without the threat of economic benefit fines, DOD would
have less incentive to comply with state and federal environmental laws
and be more likely to divert resources that should be spent on
environmental compliance to other military projects. Military facilities
will be above the law -- eroding public confidence in government. Dan L.
Crippen, the Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), found
that since 1994 the DOD has paid over $14 million in fines -- most of
which have been paid to state and local governments. The CBO also found
that this program "will likely delay payment of some fines" and could
"make it more difficult for state and local governments to negotiate for
compliance with environmental laws."

This provision impairs a valuable tool that states have used to improve
environmental protection and derails the current trend toward federal
facility accountability. Creating a special exemption for DOD from
penalties for environmental violations sends the message that this
federal agency can ignore and discount the laws by which everyone else
must abide. Because of the serious ramifications for federal
accountability and protection of the environment and public health, we
strongly urge you to oppose Section 342 of the FY 2001 National Defense
Authorization bill and support the Kerry amendment to strike it.

Robert Dewey
Vice President of Government Relations and External Affairs
Defenders of Wildlife

Joan Mulhern
Legislative Counsel
Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund

Courtney Cuff
Legislative Director
Friends of the Earth

Betsy Loyless
Political Director
League of Conservation Voters

Faith Weiss
Legislative Counsel
Natural Resources Defense Council

Anna Aurilio
Staff Scientist
U.S. Public Interest Research Group

James K. Wyerman
Executive Director
20/20 Vision

Cindy Shogan
Alaskan Wilderness League

Aimee R. Houghton
Associate Director
Center for Public Environmental Oversight

Dan L. Astott
AMAC: The AuSable Manistee Action Council

Craig Williams
Chemical Weapons Working Group
Berea, KY

Naomi Shultz
Steering Committee
Common Ground
Berea, KY

Peter Hille
Kentucky Environmental Foundation
Berea, KY

DelMar Callaway
Community Co-Chair
McClellan AFB RAB

Theresa Freeman
Executive Director
Military Toxics Project

Walter R. Stochel, Jr. 
Edison, NJ

Elizabeth Crowe
Non-Stockpile Chemical Weapons Citizens Coalition
Berea, KY

Richard Hugus
Otis Conversion Project
Falmouth, MA 

Carol Jahnkow
Executive Director
Peace Resource Center of San Diego

Peter Strauss
PM Strauss & Associates
San Francisco, CA

Marylia Kelly
Executive Director
Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
Livermore, CA


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 222B View St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/968-1126

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