2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Aimee Houghton <aimeeh@cpeo.org>
Date: 6 Apr 2003 18:39:25 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Senator Lieberman Supports the Military; Rejects Environmental Exem
Statement by Senator Joe Lieberman at the Environment and Public Works Committee

For Release:
April 2, 2003
Statement to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Considering Department of Defense’s Proposal to
Amend Environmental Laws

Mr. Chairman, today we consider attempts to exempt the Department of Defense from a number of major federal environmental laws, including the Superfund law and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, both of which govern toxic waste management and cleanup; the Endangered Species Act; and the Clean Air Act.

As a member of both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Environment and Public Works, I have studied this issue carefully and concluded that there is no good reason to justify these exemptions and the harm they would do to our natural resources.

Some believe that we must choose between a strong defense and a clean environment. I do not. The truth is, we can protect our environment and protect our people at the very same time. We can defend the red, white, and blue and be green at the same time. In fact, we must do both.

I take a backseat to no one in support of our military. I understand and appreciate the heroic job our men and women in uniform are doing overseas today and the extensive training they must do here at home to get battle ready. Nothing should interfere with their preparedness. Nothing should compromise their training. But obeying our environmental laws does neither, and in suggesting otherwise, I am afraid the Administration has dressed up major environmental rollbacks in a national security camouflage.

Ideology might support the belief that the nation's security and the health of environment are naturally at odds but the evidence presented to date does not. In fact, this committee has heard testimony from EPA Administrator Christine Whitman the Administration's top environmental official asserting that, in her judgment, there is not a single training mission in this country being adversely affected by environmental protection. Commanders of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard confirm that our forces are the best trained in the world, by far.

And if any problem might arise, the current laws have the flexibility needed to allow for the training our soldiers need. Our environmental laws already have many exemptions that the Pentagon is free to invoke. In fact, Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz recently distributed a memorandum asking the services to seek to invoke these exemptions. Mr. Chairman, I ask that a copy of the memo be placed in the record.

On the other hand, when we allow the Defense Department or any entity to pollute with impunity and deal with none of the consequence sit's the American people who suffer. Let me give you an example. At more than 20 sites throughout the country, perchlorate a chief ingredient in rocket fuel has contaminated citizens' groundwater. Studies have shown that the chemical, even in small doses, can disrupt thyroid function and impair infant development. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that this is dangerous stuff.

If the Pentagon's request for exemptions passes, however, communities around the nation will be left to fend for themselves and pay by themselves for the exorbitant costs of cleaning up these poisoned sites. The city of Rialto, California, for example, estimates that its water bills would increase from 100 to 400 percent as a result. And that is to say nothing of the threat to the health of Rialto citizens.
No one here is suggesting that the Defense Department restrict its training or readiness procedures. All we insist is that they not run roughshod over the environment in the process. If and when the environment is damaged, our government must do the right thing and take on the responsibility itself of cleaning our air, water, and land, consistent with the laws of the land  instead of leaving citizens to face the consequences of environmental degradation on their own.
Finally, let me touch on a final objection I have with the rollbacks being contemplated today, and that is a procedural one. The changes being contemplated are substantial. They will have far-reaching effects on a complex suite of environmental and public health laws. Therefore, they demand thorough scrutiny in the Congressional committee that is most responsible for such consideration. That is this Committee, Environment and Public Works.

We should allow the Armed Services Committee to focus on the pressing military needs occasioned by the war in Iraq and the ongoing war against terrorism, while this Committee's expertise is brought to bear on the Pentagon's request for environmental exemptions.

In sum, it would be an inappropriate usurpation of this committee's oversight responsibilities, not to mention a waste of this committee's considerable expertise, for the Armed Services Committee to rush the changes through.

Thank you.

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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