2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Steve@miltoxproj.org
Date: 19 Feb 2002 14:56:24 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Hello all:

Here's the background on the new push for more military exemptions from 
environmental laws.

Steve Taylor
National Organizer
Military Toxics Project
(207) 783-5091 (phone)
(207) 783-5096 (fax)
P.O. Box 558
Lewiston, ME  04243-0558

Does the Pentagon Need Even More Exemptions from Environmental Laws?

The Pentagon is claiming that environmental laws are hurting military 
readiness, despite the fact that the U.S. military is already completely 
or partially exempt from most of these laws. Here's what they aren't 
saying about existing military exemptions and the cost to the 
environment and community health.

Why are communities and states being excluded from this debate?

Last year, three Congressional committees or subcommittees held hearings 
on military readiness which served as platforms for military officials 
to launch their assault on environmental laws. Community leaders and 
state officials were excluded. The Military Readiness Subcommittee of 
the House Armed Services committee will hold another hearing on this 
issue on March 14, again without any testimony from the communities and 
states impacted by military contamination and pollution. We welcome a 
debate about military exemptions from environmental laws and the human 
cost of those exemptions. But, so far there hasn't been a debate because 
communities and states have been cut out. The people impacted by 
military environmental practices and their state governments deserve a 
chance to tell their side of the story, and Congress deserves to have 
all the information on the table when it debates this issue.

Isn't the military already exempt from most environmental laws?

Yes. The military is exempt from critical parts of the Oil Pollution 
Act, the Noise Act, and the statutes that govern nuclear energy. The 
Emergency Planning and Community Response Act only applies by executive 
order, which is not enforceable by federal agencies or states. EPA 
cannot enforce military compliance with the Clean Water Act. The 
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act 
(CERCLA) cannot be applied to the military in the same manner as private 
companies. The Secretary of Defense can unilaterally exempt military 
actions from provisions of the Endangered Species Act during the appeal 
process. There are other examples. The point is that the military is 
already exempt from many environmental laws or from enforcement of those 
laws. Neighbors of military facilities already have less protection than 
neighbors of private facilities. Let's not make it worse.

Are environmental laws and military training and readiness really 

In a word: no. All major statutes allow the President or his agents to 
exempt any public or private entity from provisions of the law for 
reasons of national security or national interest. But our military 
shouldn't enjoy blanket exemptions from laws or enforcement that allow 
it to ignore the health of its neighbors. Before we can talk about 
military training needs, we have to recognize the immense human and 
environmental cost being forced on communities that host our military. 
We have to consider the size of our military in the 21st century, and 
what kind of training we need. New alternative training technologies and 
munitions are deployed every year. Many of them are already in use.

U.S. Representative William Delahunt (D-MA) - who represents residents 
of Cape Cod who have had their sole source of drinking water 
contaminated by the military - confronted these issues directly in 
testimony before the House Committee on Government Reform last year, 
during a hearing on military training. Congressman Delahunt said:

>>From no serious quarter is there any desire to undermine readiness. Or 
>to pressure regulators into irresponsible enforcement. Or, as some even 
>suggest, to expose our troops to increased hazards..When Pentagon 
>officials bemoan costly "work-arounds" there is no mention of the 
>hundreds of thousands of federal dollars in compensation to local 
>cranberry farmers for crops poisoned by polluted plumes. Or of elevated 
>breast cancer rates in towns surrounding the base.

Congressman Delahunt also quoted two veterans who had spoken on the 
subject. One - a veteran of the D-Day invasion - stated that travelling 
five or six hours to train "may not be fun, but neither is combat." A 
Korean War veteran noted that "the Army Guard faces a personnel 
management problem - and it has alternatives. We have no alternative. 
This is our only water supply for the future."

We heard the same predictions of doom from private industry when federal 
environmental laws were passed, and in most states regarding state 
environmental laws. Companies and trade associations promised mass job 
losses and bankruptcies due to the cost of compliance with environmental 
laws. It didn't happen. Private companies made cultural changes, 
invested in innovative technologies, and found new ways to do business. 
In fact, we have found that environmentally sustainable business is 
better for the bottom line.

Military readiness and human health are not incompatible. In fact, our 
military exists specifically to protect our lives and health. We must 
find ways to make both possible while making sure we all follow the same 
rules. Military exemptions undermine public trust in our government and 
expose communities to unnecessary contamination.

What's the cost of existing military exemptions?

Past and current exemptions from environmental laws have allowed our 
military to become the largest polluter in the U.S. and produced a 
national environmental catastrophe. There are over 27,000 toxic hot 
spots on 8,500 military properties. There were 129 military sites on the 
National Priorities (Superfund) List in August 1995 (81% of all federal 
NPL sites, though DOD controls only 34% of federal facilities and only 
3% of federal lands). DOD accounted for 71% of EPA enforcement actions 
against federal facilities in Fiscal Year 1997. The cost to cleanup DOD 
training ranges may already exceed $100 billion. The environmental, 
health, and monetary cost of existing military exemptions is already too 
high. We can't afford any more.

Doesn't the military need exemptions because of its special mission?

No. The President already has the authority to grant temporary 
exemptions in times of war or national crisis. Our military has proven 
it needs to be regulated to protect community health. We shouldn't 
poison communities in order to protect them. We shouldn't have to live 
in a democracy where our government is exempt from its own laws - the 
laws that the rest of us have to follow. 

Can't the military regulate itself?

No. Polluters always say they don't need to be regulated - it's never 
true. You don't let the fox guard the hen house, and you don't let 
polluters regulate their own environmental performance. It hasn't worked 
with our military. Federal facilities are exempt from fines under the 
Clean Water Act (CWA). The number of federal facilities violating the 
CWA rose from under 6% in 1993 to over 40% in 1998. Over 40% of major 
defense facilities were in violation of the CWA in 1998. Conversely, the 
percentage of federal facilities in violation of the Resource 
Conservation and Recovery Act - which was amended to include federal 
facilities in 1992 - fell from 45% in 1993 to 12% by 1998.

Is there public support for the equal regulation of the military?

The U.S. public believes that our government should follow the same 
rules as the rest of us. There has been bipartisan support in Congress 
and from many mainstream organizations for past waivers of federal 
sovereign immunity under environmental laws. A poll conducted in San 
Diego found that two-thirds of residents supported holding the Navy to 
the same environmental laws as private companies.

Where can I get more information about this issue?

The Military Toxics Project can provide more background information. Our 
web site is at http://www.miltoxproj.org. You can also email 
Steve@miltoxproj.org or call (207) 783-5091.

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