2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 7 Apr 2003 14:52:00 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Acevedo Misleads Public on Vieques Range Clean-up Plan
April 4, 2003
Acevedo Misleads Public on Vieques Range Clean-up Plan

Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila ("commonwealth" party/D) this
week only told Puerto Ricans part of the plans that the Navy publicly
told Congress it would take to clean-up its combat training range on
Vieques. The Navy plans to close the range by May 1.

Acevedo told Puerto Ricans about testimony that the Acting Secretary of
the Navy had given to the House of Representatives’ Armed Services
Committee on the issue but left out key facts. The resident commissioner
said that Acting Secretary of the Navy H.T. Johnson acknowledged the
Navy’s responsibility for contaminated the land and said it was working
with the U.S. Interior Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, and the Commonwealth (Puerto Rico’s territorial government) on
the matter.

Puerto Rico’s official representative in the House said that he was
pleased by the statements. He also said that he had asked House
Democratic Hispanic Caucus Chairman Ciro Rodriguez (TX), a member of the
Armed Services Committee, to help him obtain specific information on the

Acevedo’s statements were curious because the Navy has always
acknowledged that it has contaminated the range during some 60 years of
combat practices. The practices have also gotten substantial attention
around the world.

The statements are misleading, however, because of what Johnson actually
told the Committee. The Bush appointee said that the clean-up would be
done based on the legally-required use of the land, further restrictions
to its use will be considered, and the Navy planned to spend $2 million
during the fiscal year that begins October 1 to begin to clear munitions
from the range.

The law permitting the closure of the range transfers the 14,000 acre
range to the U.S. Interior Department. It also requires that the 900
acre bombing area be made a "Wilderness Area" and the rest a "Wildlife
Refuge." In addition, the law prohibits Interior from disposing of the
land through a process by which the federal government can give up land
without congressional approval.

"Wilderness Area" and "Wildlife Refuge" designations mean what there
will be public access and activity restrictions on the land. Johnson’s
statement suggests that restrictions greater than laws require may be
imposed by regulations.

The plans are consistent with the law and expressions from leading
members of both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. But they
are a disappointment to Acevedo, Puerto Rico Governor Sila Calderon
("commonwealth"/no national party) and other anti-range activists. They
want a thorough clean-up of the range and for at least most of the land
to be given to local ownership.

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