2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Aimee Houghton <aimeeh@cpeo.org>
Date: 28 May 2003 21:16:38 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] RRPI Update from the House and Senate
In March of this year the Department of Defense (DOD) submitted to Congress its second version of the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative (RRPI). Now that both houses of Congress have passed their versions of the Defense Authorization Act, it appears that Congress won't be giving the Department much of what it requested.

The initiative sought to exempt the Department from certain provisions of five major environmental laws:
1. The Clean Air Act (CAA)
2. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
3. The Comprehensive Environmental Responsibility Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)
4. The Endangered Species Act (ESA)
5. The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)

The Senate Armed Services Committee accepted, voting primarily along party lines, just one of DOD's requests, the ESA provision. DOD had proposed language which "would provide that Integrated Natural Resources Management Plans under the Sikes Act provide the special management considerations or protection required under the Endangered Species Act and would obviate the requirement for designation of critical habitat on military lands for which such Plans have been completed."

Once the bill went to the Senate floor, Senators Jeffords, Lautenberg, Akaka, and Lieberman offered an amendment that would allow the deferment of critical habitat designation on if

1. the Secretary of the Interior determines in writing that the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan (INRMP) will protect endangered species, and
2. the plan provides assurances that sufficient funding will be forthcoming to support the conservation activities.

The amendment passed by a vote of 51-48 with four Republican Senators Chaffee (RI), Collins (ME), Snowe (ME), and Spector (PA) voting in favor.

In the House of Representatives a different kind of battle took place. Because all five of the RRPI provisions fall outside of the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee, the exemptions had to first go through their respective committees. The Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over CERCLA, RCRA, and CAA. The Resources Committee has jurisdiction over ESA and MMPA.

The Commerce Committee chose not to address the pollution statutes. However, the Resources Committee took the RRPI ESA and MMPA exemptions and expanded them much further -- exempting non-military activities from many of the provisions of those two statutes. In negotiations between the chair of the Resources Committee (Pombo, R-CA) and the chair of the Armed Services Committee (Hunter, R-CA), Pombo agreed to scale back somewhat the ESA language, but the MMPA language remained far-reaching. In addition Resources added a rider, the Renzi amendment, that essentially is a resurrection of the Kolbe amendment from last year. This amendment would relieve the Army from the responsibility for off-site water use at Fort Huachuca, Arizona (see http://www.cpeo.org/lists/military/2003/msg00543.html).

Thus, the House Armed Services Committee approved ESA and MMPA exemptions that were much broader than DOD requested, as well as an amendment on Fort Huachuca that DOD claimed it didn't want.

Numerous amendments to scale back these provisions were put before the House Rules Committee. One would have restored the original RRPI provisions. Another would have significantly modified the original provisions. A third amendment proposed to strike any language altering ESA and MMPA.

After heated debate on the floor and a close vote on the rule--moderate Republicans were particularly vocal about not being forced to vote for the lesser of two evils--the House approved an amendment restoring the original DOD ESA and MMPA exemptions. The House also approved the Renzi amendment.

When Congress returns, a House-Senate Conference Committee will resolve the differences between the two bills. Here is where the DOD environmental provisions stand:

1. The Senate passed a significantly less sweeping version of the DOD ESA proposal.
2. House passed the DOD versions of the ESA and MMPA proposal
3. The House passed the Renzi amendment on Arizona's Fort Huachuca and the San Pedro River.
4. Not one of the pollution-law exemptions DOD requested made it into either the House or Senate bill.

It's always dangerous to predict Conference Committee outcomes, but here are some additional facts that may influence the deliberations. The Senate Commerce Committee has been adamant about its jurisdiction over MMPA issues, so the Senate conferees are unlikely to accept the MMPA proposals in the House bill. Renzi is a Congressman from northern Arizona pushing legislation that would affect someone else's district in southern Arizona.

Though it may be a couple of months before all the dust settles, one can make at least four key observations:

1. Defense environmental issues aren't just being resolved quietly in Committee. They are emerging as high profile votes in both houses of Congress.

2. "Moderate" Republicans remain reluctant to support Bush Administration environmental policies.

3. DOD has not made a case that pollution-control laws pose any threat to readiness.

4. Despite its victories in Central Asia, the Defense Department is not immune from challenges at home.

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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