Apr 07, 2004
Dingell on DoD and the Enviroment
DOD AGAIN SEEKS ENVIRONMENTAL EXEMPTIONS DESPITE ITS
HISTORIC RECORD OF CONTAMINATION
Washington, D.C. - Congressman John D. Dingell, Ranking Member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, blasted the Department of Defense (DOD) today for once again seeking legislation that would exempt the Department from vital environmental laws that protect the public health.
“It’s disturbing enough that the Department of Defense has left a lethal legacy of contamination throughout our country and has refused to clean it up, but now it has the audacity to ask for immunity from state and federal laws that protect the environment and the public health,” said Dingell.
For the third consecutive year, DOD is seeking exemptions for itself from three environmental laws - the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), and the Clean Air Act. The DOD proposal would preempt states’ authority to protect potential drinking water supplies, address environmental contamination and take action where there may be imminent endangerments to human health. If DOD contaminates a water supply, not only would the states lose the authority to protect themselves, the proposal would also terminate the federal statutory authorities that local governments, drinking water providers, and military families can use to seek action.
If the broad Clean Air Act exemption is granted, DOD would be allowed to emit unlimited amounts of pollution over a three-year period regardless of the impact it has on air quality. DOD alone would be responsible for emission levels above public health standards, and the only recourse for such violations would be to seek reductions from other, non-military sources. Until reductions were achieved, the air would remain unsafe to breathe.
DOD officials claim these exemptions are necessary “to maintain military readiness,” but so far have not cited any example of where these laws have held up military training or readiness. Should a conflict with national security or military readiness arise, these environmental laws already contain provisions that allow the President to exempt any DOD facility from statutory or regulatory requirements if military readiness is jeopardized.
“DOD has failed miserably to meet its current environmental responsibilities, so it is safe to assume that the situation will only get worse if the Defense Department is completely exempted from our most important pollution control laws,” said Dingell.
At the same time DOD is aggressively seeking exemptions from these environmental laws, it is failing to clean up the existing contamination from military munitions at DOD facilities and surrounding areas throughout the country. A recent General Accounting Office (GAO) report, requested by Dingell, concluded that DOD does not yet have a “complete and viable plan” for cleaning up at least 15 million acres of land known to be, or suspected of being, contaminated with military munitions such as perchlorate and TNT. GAO estimated that cleanup at the remaining munitions sites in DOD’s current inventory could conservatively take from 75 to 330 years to complete.
The following groups also oppose the DOD’s proposal to exempt itself from environmental laws: 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, Western Growers Association and all major environmental organizations.