2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: steve@miltoxproj.org
Date: 18 Mar 2003 14:50:21 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Letter re: DOD exemptions
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Pasted into this email is a letter from communities affected by military
contamination and pollution to Congress, opposing the Department of
Defense's proposals for sweeping new exemptions from federal public
health and environmental laws.  The letter is being circulated for sign
on by organizations from affected communities.

The letter will be transmitted to Congress next week listing all local
organizations that have signed on.

The letter is being circulated by the Military Toxics Project, a
non-profit national network of communities affected by military
contamination and pollution, including community, veteran, tribal,
environmental, and other organizations.

If your organization would like to endorse the letter and be listed,
please contact Steve Taylor at the Military Toxics Project:
steve@miltoxproj.org or (207) 783-5091.

If you would like to be listed on the letter please send us a clear
statement to that effect along with the name of the organization and the
city and state in which the organization exists or is headquartered.

MTP also has background materials on DOD's proposed exemptions



Re:  Communities affected by military contamination oppose sweeping new
exemptions for DOD

Dear Senator or Representative:

As communities affected by military contamination and pollution, we urge
you to oppose any provisions in the Defense Authorization Bill for
Fiscal Year 2004 that would exempt the Department of Defense (DOD) from
landmark public health and environmental laws, including the Clean Air
Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Superfund (CERCLA), the

Endangered Species Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.  No
federal agency should be above the law - especially the laws that
protect water, air, and the environment in and around military
facilities and the health of the people who live nearby.  Additional
exemptions are not necessary to maintain military readiness: each of the
statutes under attack by the Pentagon already contain provisions to
exempt military activities in the interest of national security, and
regulatory agencies already provide great latitude to the DoD to protect
military training.  DOD's proposed sweeping new exemptions would
undermine the role of states that administer pollution control laws, and
local communities that are directly impacted by DOD operations.

Exempting military operations and lands from fundamental public health
and environmental laws will make our communities second class citizens,
stripping us of protections provided at private sector facilities.
Across the board exemptions from federal laws are not necessary to
maintain military readiness.  Existing law already contains provisions
providing for case-by-case waivers in the interest of national security,
and the United States Code specifically empowers the President to
resolve any conflicts between the DOD and other executive agencies that
effect training or readiness.  Local, cooperative efforts including =
military staff, states, municipalities, environmental organizations, and
affected communities have shown that innovative solutions based on local
needs and conditions can accommodate military training while protecting
public health and the environment.

As it did last year, the Department of Defense has again proposed
sweeping and controversial exemptions from public health and
environmental laws through a closed process that excluded our
communities and representatives of the states in which we live.  DOD
once again seeks to avoid consideration of its proposals in the Senate
and House committees which hold jurisdiction over the laws from which
the military seeks exemption, by inserting the language into the
National Defense Authorization Act.  Controversial and unprecedented
across the board exemptions from foundational laws, such as those =
proposed by DOD, should be fully debated in the committees of
jurisdiction in a process including all stakeholders.

Military contamination and pollution threaten the health of our
communities and the environment on which we depend for life.  Department
of Defense activity has produced over 27,000 toxic hot spots on 8,500
military properties.  Military munitions in particular represent a
severe and pervasive threat to our communities.  Unexploded ordnance
(UXO) exists on 1,500 sites in the U.S. comprising 15 million acres,
posing an immediate threat to public health and leaching toxic chemical
contaminants into the environment.  According to the DOD itself, 16
million acres of land already transferred to other agencies or the
public may be contaminated with UXO and toxic munitions constituents.
The Army alone has as many as 2,000 sites contaminated by explosives.

Our communities have struggled to protect our health and environment,
not only from toxic munitions contamination but also from the DOD's
unwillingness to aggressively address the problems.  DOD's record speaks
for itself.

  a.. Massachusetts Military Reservation, Cape Cod, MA - Decades of
unregulated munitions use contaminated the sole source of drinking water
for half a million people, up to 75 billion gallons of water.  The
military claimed that unexploded ordnance would never contaminate the
environment.  The extent of contamination at MMR was only discovered
after EPA forced the military to investigate.  Burning of excess
artillery propellant - which could be exempted from regulation under
DOD's proposal - has been linked to increased lung cancer in people
living nearby.

  b.. Jefferson Proving Ground, Madison, IN - Parts of the former
Jefferson Proving Ground are contaminated with up to 150,000 pounds of
toxic depleted uranium remaining from Army testing of DU munitions.  The
Army has sought to walk away from this contamination without performing
any cleanup, and only recently abandoned its proposal to cease any
ongoing environmental monitoring at the site.  Under DOD's proposed
exemptions, depleted uranium shells and the contamination they cause
would be exempt from federal hazardous waste and toxic cleanup laws.

  c.. Aberdeen Proving Ground, Aberdeen, MD - Wells that supply drinking
water for communities surrounding the Proving Ground are contaminated
with the toxic munitions constituent perchlorate.  Military officials
have opposed community requests for action to remove the contamination
from drinking water supplies.  DOD could be exempted from its liability
to clean up perchlorate contamination of groundwater and drinking water
at sites around the country under its exemption proposals.
  d.. Makua Military Reservation, O'ahu, HI - The Makua Valley is home
to over 40 endangered species, including one found nowhere else on
earth.  Training and munitions disposal operations have caused fires
that damaged these species; destroyed homes, the local church, and
Indigenous Hawai'ian temples; and contaminated soil and groundwater.
The Army refused for years to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement
considering the effects of its training on the environment, species, and

Indigenous culture in the valley.  Federal and state agencies oversight
of munitions contamination and protection of critical habitat for
endangered species could be blocked if DOD's proposals are enacted.

The ability of states and EPA to protect public health and the
environment at these sites and hundreds of others would be dramatically
limited if DOD's proposed exemptions are enacted.

The language proposed by the Defense Department would:

-Strip EPA and states of virtually any authority to protect public
health and the environment from toxic contamination caused by military
munitions under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).  All
military munitions - including chemical, biological, depleted uranium,
and nuclear weapons - and the contamination they cause would apparently
be exempted from RCRA.  DOD's language would block the use of RCRA to
require investigation and cleanup of toxic munitions contamination both
on and off military ranges, even in the face of an imminent and
substantial endangerment to human health.

-Exempt toxic munitions contamination of groundwater, air, and soil at
"operational" military ranges (a vague term which includes dozens of
ranges that have been inactive for years or decades) from oversight and
regulation under CERCLA (Superfund), until the contamination migrates
off-range into surrounding communities.  States and EPA would be blocked
from virtually any oversight of munitions contamination at hundreds of
contaminated DOD sites.

-Shift the burden for maintaining clean air to other agencies, private
industry, small businesses, and the public.  DOD seeks to become
exempt from compliance with the Clean Air Act's public health air
quality standards for a broad range of activities.  DOD's proposal
actually defines dirty air to be clean air, by allowing EPA to approve
areas that do not meet the CAA standards as having attained them, if the
reason for the nonattainment is military air pollution.

-Block any designation of critical habitat under the Endangered Species
Act on any lands owned or controlled by the military.
DOD's proposal would prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or
National Marine Fisheries Service from designating critical habitat on
any DOD lands if an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan has
been developed pursuant to the Sikes Act that "addresses special
management consideration or protection." The Fish and Wildlife Service
has specifically found that INRMPs are not adequate to protect
endangered species.

-Allow the DOD to harm marine mammals without review by changing the
Marine Mammal Protection Act's definition of "harassment" to a vague and
subjective definition based on DOD's own assessment of its activities.
DOD's proposal would allow a range of military activities that disrupt
and harm marine mammals, eliminate the requirement that any killing of
marine mammals be limited to "small numbers," and create broad
exemptions allowing the military to entirely bypass the law's review

Our communities struggle every day to hold DOD accountable for its
actions that endanger our health and our environment.  Our families and
our water, land, and air will bear the cost of the toxic contamination
and destruction of natural resources that will result if DOD's proposals
become law.  Existing laws already allow DOD to request waivers on a
case by case basis.  Sweeping new exemptions from landmark public health
and environmental laws will only undermine the strength of our democracy
and the health of our communities.  We urge you to oppose any language
that grants DOD new broad exemptions from public health and
environmental laws, and ensure that all of us must live under the same

Tara Thornton
Executive Director
Military Toxics Project



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