2003 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 30 Sep 2003 14:49:13 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military


For immediate release:  September 26, 2003

Environmental Groups File Suit to Halt Export Of Toxic "Ghost Fleet" To

WASHINGTON, DC - The Basel Action Network (BAN) and Sierra Club,
represented by Earthjustice, filed suit today in DC Federal District
Court to stop the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) from allowing the
towing of the first 2 of 13 toxic "Ghost Fleet" naval vessels across
the Atlantic Ocean from the James River in Virginia to the AbleUK
company in Teesside, England, for scrapping.

The groups are also seeking an emergency restraining order to halt the
first shipment, which they believe MARAD's contractor is planning to
accomplish next week.  Already, the Coast Guard has indicated that the
contractor has asked for a final inspection on Monday the 29th of
September to allow for the towing permit -- the last hurdle before

The 13 ships are in serious states of deterioration with several of them

already having leaked oil into the James River.   According to the
government's own estimates the 13 vessels in this deal are laden with
100 tons of persistent and toxic PCBs, and over 3,000 long tons of fuel
oils. Loud protests over the wisdom of this toxic export from an
environmental and an economic standpoint have been voiced on both sides
of the Atlantic.

"We have the technology to safely recycle the 'ghost fleet' and provide
much needed jobs right here in Virginia," said Michael Town, director
of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. "So why does the Bush
Administration want to haul it across the Atlantic and chance an
ecological disaster during hurricane season? This is just another
example of the Bush Administration making an end run around the

Under the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA), it is illegal to export
PCBs, which are highly toxic chemicals known to cause liver and nervous
system damage to humans and wildlife even in microscopic amounts.  The
suit contends that the Bush Administration has basically ignored the
TSCA, which prohibits EPA from lifting the ban without an open public
process to determine that the export and handling of the PCBs will not
threaten human health or the environment.

"The law of the land is that it is illegal to export PCBs," said
Earthjustice attorney Martin Wagner.  "The same law provides that if
you want special exemption from the export ban, the public has to have
a say in that very serious decision.  Yet the Bush Administration
decided to send US poisons to other countries without such public
debate or adequate assessment of the risks to the environment and
public health."

The environmentalists are especially concerned that these ships are the
tip of a toxic iceberg.  They are concerned over what they call a
needless risk of irreparable harm in the immediate toxic ship towing
scheme, but are also extremely concerned of the precedents that will be
set if the "enforcement discretion" decision is not reversed.  They are
particularly concerned with the Administration's keen interest to
export the bulk of the "ghost fleet" to China where workers are paid
very low wages and must toil without the social, legal, and medical
safety-net U.S. workers enjoy.

"This export to the UK gives the Bush Administration its vital
precedent and first foot out the door to begin the wholesale dumping of
this fleet of toxic ships on poor Asian communities." said Jim Puckett.
"But whether it's the UK or China, we should not be throwing our toxic
trash on our global neighbors.  With all of our own shipbuilders out of
work, it is a no-brainer that we should more responsibly build up our
own domestic recycling infrastructure to do the job safely at home."



Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network 1-206-652-5555, cell 1-206-779-0363
Michael Town, Sierra Club, Virginia Chapter 1-804-225-9113 Martin
Wagner/Marcello Mollo, Earthjustice 1-510-550-6700

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