|Date:||19 Feb 2002 14:56:24 -0000|
|Subject:||[CPEO-MEF] TAKE ACTION 2 OF 2|
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 incompatible? 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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