2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 14 Mar 2003 20:38:57 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] DOD Exemption Testimonies
The following is excerpted from Lenny Siegel's testimony before the
Readiness Subcommittee, House Committee on Armed Services from March 13,

The full text of the testimony, as well as the testimonies of the other
members of the panel are now available at:

“Defense and the environment” is not an either-or proposition. To choose
between them is impossible in this real world of serious defense threats
and genuine environmental concerns. The real choice is whether we are
going to build a new environmental ethic into the daily business of
defense...— Dick Cheney, 1990

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to
address the challenge of balancing the competing, yet compatible
objectives of military readiness, environmental protection, and
community development. My organization, the Center for Public
Environmental Oversight, works with the people who live and work on or
near current and former military bases and ranges throughout the United
States, from Puerto Rico to Alaska, from Maine to Hawai‘i.
Secretary Cheney’s vision is realistic, but the Department of Defense’s
new Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative (RRPI), proposed as
Section 316 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year
2004, is a giant step in the wrong direction. Instead of making the
Defense Department a leader in “environmental compliance and
protection,” the Initiative would give the military special treatment
that is not necessary for it to fulfill its mission.

• The Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative purports to resolve
problems that have not been documented.
• The Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative appears designed to
limit the Defense Department’s obligations in areas unrelated to
• The Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative would endanger public
health and the environment, and
• The Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative is poorly drafted.
• The Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative fails to support
cooperative efforts of military officials, environmental organizations,
and state, and local governments to address a common enemy, urban

I have been asked today to address the proposed changes to the Clean Air
Act, as it applies to State Implementation Plans, and the Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Comprehensive Environmental
Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), as they apply to
munitions and explosive constituents. I have seen no evidence that these
three laws have ever interfered with readiness. The impact of these laws
on training and other readiness activities is purely hypothetical. In
fact, even if regulatory agencies or third parties were to challenge
training or other readiness activities using these statutes, they
already provide the flexibility to balance environmental and military
requirements on a site-by-site basis.

Furthermore, these proposals appear to address Defense Department
objectives other than readiness. The language dealing with munitions
response seems designed to minimize the Department's responsibility for
cleaning up not only unexploded ordnance, but explosive constituents
such as perchlorate. Even if the language is modified to clearly apply
only to active munitions ranges, it would prevent regulatory agencies
from addressing contamination that threatens public health and the
environment—until it’s too late—and it would undermine incentives for
pollution prevention on ranges.

Similarly, the language exempting military pollution from Conformity
requirements under the Clean Air Act seems more related to the
military’s plans for base closure and realignment than to readiness. Our
population’s right to breathe clean air should be a factor in decisions
where to base or fly aircraft, and current law provides more than enough
flexibility to accommodate public health concerns with military
readiness activity.

The subsection of the proposal dealing with munitions and explosive
constituents—what the military not so long ago called ordnance and
explosive wastes (OEW)—continues an inglorious Pentagon tradition of
addressing a significant, complex problem through convoluted definitions
that invite litigation while failing to resolve genuine, significant
issues. It doesn’t help resolve disputes over whether an inactive range
is closed. It opens up a loophole in the oversight of open burning/open
detonation (OB/OD) facilities on operational ranges. It appears to
ignore ordnance and explosive wastes that were never used on operational
ranges. According to some legal experts, it still doesn’t definitively
exclude former ranges from the exemptions the Department says it seeking
only for operational ranges.

While the threat of these laws to military readiness is purely
theoretical, the risk to public health and the environment at
operational ranges is real. For example, a dozen years ago, Army
researchers at Fort Richardson’s Eagle River Flats range, in Alaska,
concluded that military munitions containing white phosphorous caused
high waterfowl mortality. At the Massachusetts Military Reservation,
Royal Demolition Explosive (RDX) and perchlorate are poisoning an
aquifer that is the sole source of drinking water for hundreds of
thousands of people. At the Aberdeen Proving Ground, the public water
supply comes, in part, from on-base wells, and those wells are also
contaminated with perchlorate. These are hazards that should be
addressed at the source, not when they cross arbitrary boundary lines.

Section 2018 of the Defense Department initiative would make air
pollution from certain military activities invisible to the agencies
responsible for protecting our air. Four of the five exemptions in the
proposed law would be permanent. It could potentially expose tens of
millions of Americans to unhealthy levels of air pollution. State and
local air quality officials would be forced to allow ongoing exposures
to dirty air or to restrict private economic activity to compensate for
unchecked military pollution. Furthermore, because the list of routine
activities excluded from “military readiness activities” does not
include power plants, it’s conceivable that the Defense Department
expects to shoehorn these polluting activities into the proposed
readiness exemptions.

Despite the military’s sweeping efforts to rewrite the nation’s
foundational environmental laws to suit its convenience, environmental
and community groups, as well as state and local governments, are
willing to work with Congress, the military, and other government
agencies to counter “encroachment”—that is, the impact of community
development on military readiness activities. I believe that
encroachment is interfering with the armed services’ ability to train,
test, fly aircraft patrols, and conduct other readiness activities.
Contrary to the official Pentagon message, military officers and
officials in the field suggest that the threat comes from urban sprawl,
not laws designed to protect human health. In my home state of
California, a wide range of stakeholder groups supported legislation,
proposed by the Navy on behalf of the armed services, to require local
jurisdictions to consider military readiness in their planning
activities. That law, S.B. 1468, is now on the books, but it is not
being implemented yet, because the Pentagon has not yet figured out how
to provide a small amount of funding.

Environmental groups, community organizations, and others in California
and many other states stand ready to implement cooperative initiatives
that promote smart growth, to create or sustain livable communities, to
protect the environment, and to enhance the sustainability of military
operations. I call upon the Defense Department to focus on the real
problem, development that encroaches upon military bases and ranges,
rather than use readiness concerns to undermine the health of the people
and natural resources that it is sworn to protect.

The fullt ext of this testimony can be viewed at:

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