2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2000 22:42:23 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] IDA Study Available for Review
The Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) study of privatization and
other issues in base closure cleanup is now available for review.
"Issues and Alternatives for Cleanup and Property Transfer of Base
Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Sites," by M.C. Bracken, E. T. Morehouse
Jr., and R.R. Rubin (August 1, 2000), may be found on the Web at
http:www.denix.osd.mil/IDA-BRAC. The main report is a PDF (Adobe
Acrobat) file, but the appendices are generally available as Microsoft
Word files.

Comments on the Defense Department-sponsored report may be submitted to
the Environmental Cleanup office by Friday, September 15, 2000.  They
may posted on the DENIX website, e-mailed to selstrj@acq.osd.mil, faxed
to 703/695-4981 or mailed to John Selstrom, Colonel USAF, Director,
Department of Defense (DoD) Environmental Cleanup Programs, Office of
the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Environmental Security), 3400
Defense Pentagon (Room 3E787), Washington, DC  20301-3400.

The report on public participation submitted to IDA by CPEO and the
International City/County Management Association (ICMA) is available as
Appendix F of the study or directly from CPEO's website at 

Here follows my selective review of the IDA document. For a complete
picture, please read the entire report.

* The IDA report appears to reflect the thinking of some, but not all
environmental policy-makers at the Defense Department. The principal
proposal is to promote the privatization of cleanup at base closure
installations through early transfer: "The most expeditious approach for
DoD to divest itself of property and fulfill government commitments to
community redevelopment is to integrate cleanup and transfer into a
single turnkey operation performed under the auspices of a developer
with expertise in environmentally contaminated properties." That is, the
authors believe that both the Defense Department and host communities
will benefit from the adaptation of Brownfields practices to base
closure. The federal government saves money on both cleanup and
"caretaking"; the community benefits from the acceleration of reuse, new
employment, and the generation of tax revenues.

There are, no doubt, military Brownfields where Brownfields practices
make sense, but the authors fail to provide any criteria for determining
when and where this model is appropriate. There may be little to gain at
leased, closed Air Force bases now providing civilian aviation services.
Brownfields practices may prove inadequate for addressing sites with
large, complex cleanup problems such as large plumes of
solvent-contaminated groundwater. It's doubtful that private developers
have the expertise to remediate sites contaminated with unexploded
ordnance - nearly 27% of total BRAC acreage and more than 57% of Army
BRAC acreage, according to IDA. And finally, privatization and early
transfer are entirely irrelevant at properties being transferred to
other federal agencies.

* IDA recommends a unified Defense Department policy "to serve as the
primary BRAC program guidance document." Beyond the general advantages
of harmonizing the policies of the armed services, IDA suggests the
focus of such a document: "This policy would include program purpose and
goals, and would clearly state that cleanup and transfer are integral
parts of the process, that property transfer, preferably using early
transfer authority, is DoD's goal."

Perhaps it's simply an assumption or oversight on the part of the
authors, but they neglect to acknowledge the purpose of the cleanup
program, as authorized by statute: the protection of public health and
the environment.

* The report warns, "The overlapping responsibilities of the Restoration
Advisory Boards (RABs) and LRAs [Local Reuse Authorities] create
potential for conflict.... differences between the functions of the two
groups complicate DoD relationships with the local communities and often
prevent the community from speaking with one voice." IDA would resolve
such conflicts by placing the RAB function within the LRA.

At one point, IDA writes, "In essence, DoD has funded two independent
organizations at the community level to deal with what is essentially
only one issue under BRAC: transfer of the site for beneficial reuse."
However, although RABs were first introduced at BRAC sites, they fulfill
a public involvement function under the Superfund statutes. In fact, at
many facilities RABs oversee the cleanup not only of property being
transferred to non-federal entities, but of property remaining in
Defense Department hands or being transferred to other federal agencies. 

That is, the purpose of RABs is to support cleanup, and conflicts
sometimes emerge when other bodies, such as LRAs pursue economic
development at the perceived expense of public safety, public health,
and environmental protection. Those conflicts are real differences that
should be highlighted and resolved, not eliminated by placing RABs under
the authority of economic development agencies.

IDA's solution, subordinating RABs to LRAs, was not even considered in
the paper that we (CPEO) and ICMA contributed to the project.

* The authors, like most other observers these days, recognize that
environmental insurance is an important tool in facilitating transfers.
More usefully, they warn, "Adequate site characterization is also a
prerequisite to the LRA or developer's ability to purchase insurance.
The problem of incomplete site characterization is not unique to BRAC
sites. Private sector transactions occur without complete
characterization, but the cost of the insurance might be higher."

To me this suggests that "too early transfers" should be avoided. Early
transfers should be permitted by regulatory agencies - I believe this is
Colorado's policy - ONLY if the nature and general extent of
contamination is known.

* At one point, the report misstates concerns about land use controls:
"Properties not cleaned to pristine conditions require some restrictions
regarding allowed future use. Some environmental public interest groups
maintain it is the government's responsibility to return property to the
same condition as before the government began using it. In many cases,
this is economically prohibitive, impractical, and not in the best
interest of either the community or the government. Working with public
interest environmental groups early and in a meaningful way can mitigate
these situations." 

Later, however, it attributes those concerns to local reuse authorities,
some of which have warned that land use controls limit their flexibility
in planning reuse. And "pristine" is not the legal threshold above which
land use controls are necessary, nor is the opportunity to reduce
cleanup costs a legally sufficient basis for avoiding the treatment of

* In its "Baseline Plus" set of recommendations, IDA calls for
legislation to clarify that Local Reuse Authorities are not considered
property owners for the purpose of determining CERCLA (Comprehensive
Environmental Restoration, Compensation, and Liability Act) liability,
when they just hold property for a short time, passing through title
from the Defense Department to a private developer. This would simply
codify and reinforce current practice.

* Also in "Baseline Plus," the authors suggest that the Defense
Department "Request a legislative amendment to allow conversion of
military housing to be eligible for transfer under the no-cost economic
development conveyance." That's a good idea, but I would go further.
Below-market housing development should be eligible for a public benefit
conveyance - that is, transfer at less than full market value - at any
surplus federal property, whether or not the military use was for


All in all, the IDA study contains a number of constructive ideas, but
it fails to target their implementation to suitable properties. More
important, it appears to ignore the reason why cleanup has emerged as an
obstacle to property transfer and reuse: Toxic and explosive
contamination threatens public safety, public health, and the natural

Finally, it should also be recognized that rightly or wrongly, many
facilities are proceeding toward cleanup and reuse under the old,
established process. Some of the suggestions put forward by IDA have
value only at properties where actions are stalled or which are not yet
even being considered for closure.

Lenny Siegel

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

You can find archived listserve messages on the CPEO website at 


If this email has been forwarded to you and you'd like to subscribe, please send a message to: 

T O P I C A  The Email You Want. http://www.topica.com/t/16
Newsletters, Tips and Discussions on Your Favorite Topics

  Prev by Date: [CPEO-MEF] Part 2 PRESS RELEASE Fort Ord RAB Lawsuit Notice Filed
Next by Date: [CPEO-MEF] IDA Report URL
  Prev by Thread: [CPEO-MEF] Part 2 PRESS RELEASE Fort Ord RAB Lawsuit Notice Filed
Next by Thread: [CPEO-MEF] IDA Report URL

CPEO Lists
Author Index
Date Index
Thread Index