2005 CPEO Military List Archive

From: "Stella Bourassa" <Stellalogic@cfl.rr.com>
Date: 2 Feb 2005 17:59:20 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: Re: [CPEO-MEF] RAB Rule proposed
Thank you Lenny for 'opening up the discussion' and for your response.  I
can attest to my own personal invovlvement with being a RAB and concerned
community member and all that encompasses with a closed/transferring base.
Yet, as I read your response, I tried to 'simplify' a very complicated
matter in many communities across our nation and in the world.  Let me start
with a piece of land, here in Central Florida that was to be the site of new
school.  After testing the ground, they found it to be full of arsenic and
needless to say, the new school plans have been axed.

When I started attending the RAB meetings (Camp Bonneville) I was quite
ignorant and clueless to 'what I was getting myself involved in'.  I was
under the impression it was for 'future plans' that the county was proposing
yet my involvement became anything but that.  I was so ignorant that I
foolishly sent a letter to Ft. Lewis asking to be given this property in
order to 'leave it as is' for a nature preserve.  I look back on my early
days and laugh at my stupidity.

What really is the 'issue' here Lenny?  Is it really about 'community
activism', learning the ropes, being given the personal opportunity to find
one's 'latent talents', which I watched bloom in those around the RAB table?
OR is this about the military (or anyone for that matter-this school site is
another example) trying to 'get out' from under contaminated land that they
contaminated but do not want to clean up?  Can I say this a better way?  If
you or I had a piece of property that we were trying to 'sell' or 'get rid
of', would we not first make sure it fit for sale?  I have yet to work with
a 'stupid or ignorant' military personnel that did NOT KNOW ordnance causes
contamination.  How is it possible that any base in America, trained upon
for years and years would NOT be contaminated?  How many times did I sit
around the RAB table or talk to the 'clean up' crew and state the obvious
only to be 'patronized' or worse than that, have no clue to what they had
proposed or understood the implications of????  In 1990, the Army was
instructed to test the groundwater on Camp Bonneville for the 'obvious' was
showing up, yet the Army continued to refuse such testing till it appeared
they were backed into a corner.  I think the worse excuse I hear is 'there
are no historical archives/data to warrant such a search' yet there were
still many veterans who trained on Camp Bonneville and still remembered
'what was not written down' but their 'memories' were dismissed with a
polite 'thank you for your time".

Am I rambling?  I'll summarize, or try to, the issues on these closed bases
are complicated and technical.  Most community members are not trained or
educated in these matters and so must 'learn as they go' which takes up lots
of time and energy and in groundwater contamination, just adds another day
closer to the contamination going 'off site'.  The military is made up of
those who are trained, educated and do know the serious and insidious
concerns these closed bases are presenting to the community.  It is
irresponsible, as well as disregarding to the health and safety of the
community, to even begin to talk about 'transferring' these bases till the
'owners' make it safe and healthy which is no different than what you or I
or anyone else on this listserver would have to do if we were trying to
'sell' property we owned. So, what exactly is the purpose of the RAB's if
the VERY owners are not being responsible and accountable for their own
decisions?  Is it to get the 'ignorant' community members to agree to
decisions that 'sound nice' but are not so that 'they' can turn around and
say 'hey, but you agreed with us?'  How many 'community volunteers'
understand the serious concerns posed to their health and safety and where
can they turn when the owners deny such possibilities and facts?

What really is the 'bottom line' here????  From my perspective, this just
seems like another 'smokescreen' meant to take my eyes off the real
issues-clean up by those who made the mess before ANY talk of 'selling or
transferring' happens which means the 'bottom line' is money.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Lenny Siegel" <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
To: "Military Environmental Forum" <military@list.cpeo.org>
Sent: Tuesday, February 01, 2005 6:11 PM
Subject: Re: [CPEO-MEF] RAB Rule proposed

> When finalized, the Department of Defense's (DoD's) proposed rule on
> Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs), published in the January 28, 2005
> Federal Register (pp. 4061-4074), will at long last cement the RAB
> process in federal regulation. The proposal is out for public comment
> until March 29. I am offering the following observations in the hope of
> stimulating comments from RAB members as well as refining my own views
> before submitting my own comments.
> For those who don't know the history, I was a member of the Federal
> Facilities Environmental Restoration Dialogue Committee that originally
> recommended the formation of site-specific advisory boards in 1993, and
> I have been an advocate of the RAB system ever since. I consider the
> network of nearly 300 RABs now in existence one of the greatest examples
> of public oversight of environmental programs, anywhere, anytime, and I
> view the RAB experience as a significant experiment in direct, or
> participatory democracy.
> Still, many RAB members view the boards as ineffective. Meetings are
> often a series of PowerPoint briefings. The Defense component - and at
> times other agencies - sometimes roll over community objections to
> proposed plans or ignore public concerns. I understand, and sometimes
> share, the frustration.
> However, I don't think the solution to RAB weakness lies in the proposed
> rule or other bureaucratic imperatives. I don't expect the federal
> government to hand over a blank check - that is the ability to make
> decisions requiring federal expenditures - to bodies that are
> essentially voluntary. Agencies are required to listen, and when they
> don't heed public advice, they should explain why. As I've been telling
> people at workshops for years, "Advisory" is our middle name.
> RABs are successful when their community members use the RAB to develop
> common objectives and then organize to achieve those objectives, using
> the knowledge and exposure they have gained as RAB members to build
> support in their communities. This is what we have done repeatedly at
> Moffett Field. For example, in 1999 we identified the technical basis -
> a cleanup standard for PCBs in sediment - that would have led to an
> incomplete cleanup of the Moffett wetlands. We researched both the
> technical and policy issues, and we organized support among our
> neighbors, environmental organizations, and elected officials. We
> blocked a series of proposed plans - backed by regulators as well as the
> Navy and NASA - before winning agreement, in December 2004, to our
> vision of a clean, restored pond. No rule required the agencies to adopt
> the community consensus, but the process gave us the opportunity to
> organize effectively to achieve it.
> Some view my Moffett experience cynically, arguing that the community
> here in Silicon Valley is more empowered and educated than most. This
> may be true, but the same formula has worked elsewhere. I remember
> meeting, about ten years ago, with the community members of the RAB at
> Castle Air Force Base, another closing base, in California's Central
> Valley. The Castle RAB was a "main street" RAB, consisting of
> businessmen, farmers, and local officials, with no "environmentalists."
> Still, they shared the frustration of a number of Bay Area RABs. They
> told us (CPEO): The Air Force doesn't listen. We responded: When the Air
> Force doesn't listen to your advice, do those political things you would
> have done had the RAB not been in place. When we next saw some of those
> RAB members, they said that they had followed CPEO's advice, and that
> things were turning around.
> So, in evaluating the proposed RAB rule, I am looking for tools that
> will make it possible for community members to identify problems,
> develop their own solutions, and promote those solutions both inside and
> beyond the RAB process.
> ***
> The proposed RAB rule essentially writes into regulation existing
> policy, much of which we first written down in joint Defense
> Department-EPA guidelines in 1994. There is a new section on RAB
> dissolution, which establishes a formal process by which the Defense
> Department can dissolve boards that it believes - and can show - are not
> fulfilling their intended purposes. It is based upon a philosophy that
> one size does NOT fit all, that RAB procedures should be developed and
> implemented locally.
> * My biggest concern is the provision that a RAB may be adjourned - that
> is, closed down permanently - if the "installation has been transferred
> out of DoD control and DoD is no longer responsible for making
> restoration response decisions." A number of communities are concerned
> that Defense components are promoting privatization, fixed-price
> contracts, and early transfer BECAUSE it will reduce the opportunities
> for community involvement. On that basis alone, they are prepared to
> oppose any form of transfer of responsibility. I consider that concern
> valid, because most states don't have statutory provisions for
> regulator-managed community advisory groups. However, I think this fear
> can be addressed by requiring that any such privatization mechanism
> contain contractual requirements for continuing public involvement.
> Though Mare Island still has a Navy-run RAB, private transferees
> conducting cleanup not only participate, but they provide additional
> support. As I understand it, they agreed to such support largely because
> RAB members made that a condition of their support for early transfer.
> * Second, the requirement that the installation respond to community
> advice should be made clearer. It's in the preamble: "Installations will
> listen, carefully consider, and provide specific responses to the
> recommendations provided by the individual RAB members." Yet in the rule
> itself, the language states: "Installations shall give careful
> consideration to the comments provided by the RAB members." It wouldn't
> take much to harmonize that language with the preamble.
> * Next, it should be clear that community members of the RAB must play a
> key role in establishing the agendas for their meetings. This may seem
> minor, but such a simple step usually goes a long way in establishing
> * I realize it's bureaucratically challenging for installation managers
> to combine activities funded from diverse programs, but I think the rule
> should include language authorizing (but not requiring) installation
> commanders to invite RABs to discuss other base environmental issues
> provided funding and staffing for that expanded activity comes from
> budgets other than environmental restoration or munitions response. From
> the community's point of view, it's often confusing that there are
> multiple forums for dealing with local military facilities. The
> community generally doesn't understand the difference between cleanup
> and other environmental programs. There may indeed be situations,
> therefore, when it is useful to DoD for RABs to discuss issues beyond
> their primary mission. For example, the Air Force expanded the
> Vandenberg AFB RAB, making it a "Community Advisory Board" authorized to
> discuss pollution prevention issues and the ENVVEST program. Where
> appropriate, that model should be encouraged.
> * At a small number of facilities, there are responsible parties, from
> other federal agencies or the private sector, who participate in the
> RAB. For example, representatives of both NASA and the "MEW" Companies
> play a constructive role in the Moffett Field RAB. This practice should
> be encouraged, but as responsible parties they should not be authorized
> to vote for community co-chair or in other community-based votes.
> * While most RAB members live or work in the affected communities, I
> think it should be clear that RABs may also include representatives of
> organizations and agencies with members who are from the affected areas.
> While most RABs are flexible on this issue, I recall a case, at Fallon
> Naval Air Station, where the staff member from a regional environmental
> organization was denied membership. Regional representation may be
> particularly important where natural resource issues are involved. For
> example, when the Moffett Field RAB took up wetlands cleanup, we
> welcomed a representative of the Bay Area-wide agency responsible for
> planning the San Francisco Bay Trail.
> * The preamble mentions the possibility of RAB advisory votes: "While
> voting or polling the members may facilitate RAB discussions, such votes
> are advisory only and not binding on agency decision makers." Because
> past guidance has discouraged such votes, the rule itself should also
> make clear than such voting is allowable. I am not asserting that votes
> are necessary, but I've found that many RAB members feel most
> comfortable when they are able to propose and debate formal
> recommendations.
> * I am pleased that the proposed rule specifies actions that may be
> taken to facilitate long-term community involvement, such as oversight
> of monitoring or five-year reviews. This is a function that no one
> really thought much about when we started forming RABs more than a
> decade ago.
> Lenny
> Lenny Siegel wrote:
> >
> > Today, January 28, 2005, the Defense Department published its proposed
> > rule on Restoration Advisory Boards in the Federal Register, pp.
> >
> >
> > 32 CFR Part 202
> >
> > Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs)
> >
> > AGENCY: Department of Defense, Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of
> > Defense (Installations and Environment), DoD.
> >
> > ACTION: Proposed rule.
> >
> > -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > SUMMARY: The Department of Defense (DoD) requests public comment on
> > these proposed regulations regarding the scope, characteristics,
> > composition, funding, establishment, operation, adjournment, and
> > dissolution of Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs). DoD has proposed
> > these regulations in response to 10 U.S.C. 2705(d)(2)(A), which requires
> > the Secretary of Defense to prescribe regulations regarding RABs.
> >
> > The propose of the RAB is to facilitate public participation in DoD
> > environmental restoration activities and active and closing DoD
> > installations and formerly used defense sites where local communities
> > express interest in such activities. The proposed regulations are based
> > on DoD's current policies for reestablishing and operating RABs, as well
> > as DoD's experience over the past ten years in using RABs.
> >
> > DATES: Comments on this proposed rule must be submitted on or before
> > March 29, 2005.
> >
> > The Federal Register notice may be downloaded either as HTML or as a PDF
> >
> >
> >
> >
> -- 
> Lenny Siegel
> Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
> c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
> Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
> Fax: 650/961-8918
> <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
> http://www.cpeo.org
> _______________________________________________
> Military mailing list
> Military@list.cpeo.org
> http://www.cpeo.org/mailman/listinfo/military

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