2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Aimee Houghton <aimeeh@cpeo.org>
Date: 20 Mar 2003 23:49:11 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Cong. Blumenauer Speaks Out Against RRPI
[The following is a statement that Congressman Blumenauer on the floor of the House of Representatives this past Tuesday. --Aimee]


Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, throughout history, nothing has had a more profound impact on the world than the consequences of war. As we examine that history, we see that often the greatest devastation from war is in its aftermath: starvation, chaos, instability, retribution, unleashing a chain of events that continues centuries later, as we are currently seeing in the Balkans.

The destructive power of today's military weapons, and the techniques used to develop and practice with them, can leave in its wake danger for generations to come. The consequences of past military action are not just limited to the mine fields in the Balkans or Asia or Africa. There is a toxic legacy right here in the United States as a result of two centuries of testing, training, and weapons manufacturing; from unexploded bombs to nuclear waste. This affects millions of acres of land, both inside city limits and in some of the otherwise most pristine countryside in America.

The good news is that not only is our Armed Forces the most powerful fighting force the world has ever seen, but they know how to deal with environmental problems. Given the right resources and instructions, they are not just ready, but eager, to do a world-class job of clean up.

The bad news is that as part of its approach to denying problems and avoiding the costs and consequences of its activities, this administration is pursuing policies that would avoid responsibility for environmental impact. For example, just last week, the subject of Thursday's hearing in the Committee on Armed Services was a proposal from the administration to exempt the Department of Defense from five key environmental laws from the Clean Air Act to the Endangered Species Act.

These laws not only protect endangered species and eco-systems, they protect the health of people living on and around military bases. If the exemptions were granted, American taxpayers and State and local governments would bear the burden of clean-up costs and face public health risks from toxic contamination resulting from military operations. The evidence shows there is no reasonable case for such exemptions. The environmental laws already allow the Department of Defense to apply for exemptions on a case-by-case basis if they really need it. Both the GAO and EPA Administrator Whitman have testified that environmental laws have not affected military readiness. There is no evidence that the military has ever been refused an exemption from laws that were necessary and that they sought it.

Even with the current environmental laws in place, sadly, the Department of Defense has too often fallen short of the mark on environmental and public health. A critical area that I have been working on deals with unexploded ordnance: the bombs, missiles, shells that are scattered throughout the United States in all 50 States. We have made progress, but we have got a long way to go. We have millions of acres of current or former military installations spread across the 50 States that contain unknown numbers of high-explosive military munitions that failed to explode when dropped or fired or which were buried for disposal.

In 1998, the Defense Science Board found that we were simply ill equipped to address the unexploded ordnance challenge. We have been working with a bipartisan group of men and women in Congress to address this issue. We have been making headway, but we have got a long way to go. If we were to exempt the Pentagon from its responsibility for environmental clean up, it would be absolutely the wrong direction. Congress instead should be funding and encouraging the clean up, not exempting the Department of Defense from environmental laws.

At the current rate of clean up, it is going to take us hundreds of years to be able to solve this problem. And that is at the current rate of funding. The President's budget just cut $400 million from the Department of Defense environmental programs.
Putting off the toxic legacy of past military activities means we must delay the ultimate cleanup, we put more families at risk, and we set a terrible precedent as we ask others to obey environmental laws and respect nature at home and abroad.

In preparing to protect this country, the administration should not give the Department of Defense authority to put at risk the environment that Americans cherish and the clean and healthy communities it demands. As the largest owner of infrastructure in the world, and sadly, as the biggest polluter, the Department of Defense should be setting the best example, not getting permission from Congress to cut corners on the protection of the environment and the health of our community. We should be working together in these troubled times to make our community healthy, safe, and economically secure.

Aimee R. Houghton
Associate Director, CPEO
1101 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20036
tel: 202-452-8039; fax: 202-452-8095
Email: aimeeh@cpeo.org

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