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Pentagon Renews Attack on Public Health & the Environment

>From <>

MARCH 3, 2005

CONTACT: Natural Resources Defense Council
Rob Perks, 202-289-2420

Pentagon Renews Attack on Public Health and Environment

WASHINGTON -- March 3 -- After persuading Congress to exempt the military
from the nation's wildlife protection laws, the Pentagon once again has
America's public health and pollution cleanup laws in its crosshairs.

Although defeated in the last two sessions of Congress, the Department of
Defense (DoD) is set to unveil its latest legislative proposal, the
"Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative," which seeks immunity from
three fundamental federal laws: the Clean Air Act; Resource Conservation &
Recovery Act (RCRA); and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation
and Liability Act (Superfund law).

The Pentagon's backdoor assault on these federal protections is expected to
begin today when the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services
Committee hears testimony on the Defense Authorization Request for FY 2006.
(The open hearing is at 2:00 pm in 2118 Rayburn HOB.) Witnesses will include
top military officials from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines--all of
whom are expected to support sweeping exemptions from laws regulating air
quality, hazardous waste and toxic cleanup despite the fact that the
Pentagon has failed to produce any evidence to support its claims that the
statutes hinder military readiness.

"The Pentagon's push for blanket exemptions from federal health and
pollution cleanup safeguards makes a mockery of national defense. Using
national security to sacrifice our nation's environmental security will
endanger our health, leaving us less safe," said Karen Wayland, legislative
director at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). "If Congress approves
the Pentagon's exemptions, who will protect soldiers and citizens from the
military's massive pollution, both on bases and in communities across the

Other groups opposing the Pentagon's environmental exemptions include:
National Association of Attorneys General, Environmental Council of the
States, Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management
Officials, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, American Water Works
Association, National Association of Water Companies, Association of
California Water Agencies, National League of Cities, National Association
of Counties, Western Growers Association, and all major environmental

A pdf of the Pentagon's proposal is available by e-mailing
What follows is a brief overview of the laws at risk from the latest
exemptions request.

Clean Air Act

Under the Clean Air Act, all federal agencies, including DoD, must conform
to any applicable federal or state implementation plan for attaining public
health air quality standards--otherwise known as National Ambient Air
Quality Standards (NAAQS). This means that DoD activities cannot cause or
contribute to a violation of NAAQS, increase the frequency or severity of
NAAQS violations, or delay attainment of a particular standard. The
Pentagon's proposal would permit the military to pollute our air by:

- broadening the definition of "training" to exclude even
non-military activities from NAAQS, such as driving vehicles on military
bases or from one training site to another, or even spraying pesticides on a

- eliminating timelines for the military to estimate the quantity
of military emissions in non-attainment areas; and

- lifting the requirement that military activities do not worsen
air quality.

The Clean Air Act already provides ample mechanisms for exempting DoD
activities when there is a national security need.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

The Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the nation's premier law
for regulating hazardous wastes, established a cradle-to-grave management
system designed to prevent toxic pollution and ensure that responsible
parties pay to clean it up. DoD has a long history of flouting RCRA
requirements. The number of EPA RCRA enforcement actions against DoD
facilities outnumbers those for other agencies by a three-to-one margin. The
Pentagon's proposal would largely remove hazardous wastes on military ranges
from RCRA regulation by:

- changing the definition of "solid waste" to exclude explosives,
munitions, munitions fragments and other toxic material;

- allowing toxic substances to be left lying exposed on the range,
where they could leach into groundwater, surface waters or the air;

- weakening the authority of the EPA and state officials to protect
communities from toxic waste;


- preventing state authorities from collecting damages from DoD
when its contamination injures sensitive public resources, including
wildlife, fisheries and recreational areas.

Superfund Law (CERCLA)

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
(CERCLA) enables cleanups at the nation's worst toxic waste sites by holding
polluters responsible for the release of hazardous materials and by
requiring polluters to pay into a trust fund that pays for cleanup when no
responsible party can be identified. The Superfund's cleanup provisions are
triggered by a "release" of a toxic substance. The Pentagon's proposal would
exempt the military from cleaning up toxic substances by:

- exempting from the term "release" any explosives, munitions,
munitions fragments or other toxic material (unless the military closed the
range or if the substances migrated off the range and required a clean up);


- delaying Superfund clean up until contamination has spread beyond
range boundaries, thereby adding years and potentially billions of dollars
to clean up efforts.

DoD is the nation's biggest polluter; its cleanup program includes nearly
28,000 currently or formerly contaminated sites in every state and
territory, and even in other countries. California alone has 3,912
contaminated sites on 441 current and former DOD properties. Many of DOD's
facilities have groundwater contamination plumes that threaten drinking
water sources. For example, Otis Air Base on Cape Cod is a notorious
Superfund site where contaminants have leached into the groundwater aquifer
that is the area's sole source of drinking water. The estimated cost to
clean up pollution at active and former military installations around the
country exceeds $90 million.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization
of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting
public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1
million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices in New York,
Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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