2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 14 May 2003 13:56:15 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Schlesinger Letter
The following letter was sent to the Members of the Senate by William

This letter can be downloaded as a PDF at:

Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
Duke University
Office of the Dean

13 May 2003

To Members of the Senate:

I write as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the incoming
President of the Ecological Society of America, and Dean of the Nicholas
School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University.

In the matter of HR 1588—the Defense Authorization Bill for FY 2004—I
strongly urge you to oppose any provisions that would exempt the
Department of Defense (DOD) from adhering to public health and
environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act, the Superfund Act (i.e., CERCLA), the
Endangered Species Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Specifically, the language proposed by the Department of Defense 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);
- Allow toxic contamination of groundwater, air, and soil at
"operational" military ranges without oversight under CERCLA
(Superfund), until the contamination migrates into surrounding
- Block any designation of critical habitat under the Endangered Species
Act on any lands owned or controlled by the military.
- Undermine protections of marine mammals by drastically weakening DoD's
obligations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Under existing laws, lands managed by the Pentagon represent some of the
most important habitat for endangered species in the United States.  The
military has protected our natural heritage of our wildlife with the
same success that has trained and protected our men and women in
uniform.  As we learn the value of species diversity in nature, we
should ensure that the military continues to protect our natural
heritage with the same fervor that it protects our lives, families and

The Pentagon currently has the authority to use provisions in the laws
or the Armed Forces Code to exempt military activities from
environmental compliance in the interest of national security or seek
special relief for military readiness.  Regulatory agencies already
provide great latitude to the DOD to allow the most effective military
training.  The existing laws strike a proper balance between protection
of public health and the environment and military readiness.  DOD's
proposed sweeping new exemptions would undermine the role of states to
administer pollution control laws.  It would also dramatically weaken
protections for marine mammals and endangered species that depend on
habitat controlled by the military.

Rather than granting the military carte blanche with respect to
compliance with environmental and public health regulations, I believe
that any of its concerns can be addressed through existing waiver
provisions, through advance planning between the Department of Defense
and environmental agencies, and through the process of local cooperation
and consultation that has been so successful at many sites.  Sweeping
exemptions, such as those proposed by the Pentagon, will endanger public
health and the environment and lead to costly, future efforts to clean
up contamination.  Unfortunately, since extinction is forever, our
nation is left forever impoverished by their loss.

I urge you to voice your opposition to the DOD proposals and to oppose
any language that grants DOD new broad exemptions from public health and
environmental laws.


William H. Schlesinger
James B. Duke Professor, Biogeochemistry
And Dean

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