AcousticEcology.org Special Report
Exempting the Military from Environmental Regulations
2002: The Pentagon initiative begins
- Draft of Sustainable Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Act (SDREPA), prepared in 2002 for introduction this year [GO THERE]
- Press Release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, April 1, 2002 [GO THERE]
- Reinterpretations of Existing Environmental Acts, Congressional action in 2002 [GO THERE]
- News Reports on this issue [GO THERE]
- GAO Report Finds Little Evidence of need for new initiatives [GO THERE]
In the spring of 2002, the Pentagon's frustration with over-regulation by environmental laws took concrete action on two fronts. In March, a hearing in the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Readiness heard testimony from Pentagon and Regulatory Agency witnesses addressing the question of whether the military is hampered in its training by regulations protecting species and habitat on military lands, and in the oceans. These hearings led to partial exemptions being added to this year's House Defense Authorization Bill.
Meanwhile, in April 2002, the draft of a comprehensive bill, the Sustainable Defense Readiness And Environmental Protection Act (SDREPA) was leaked by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The proposed bill would exempt the military from protections contained in the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Noise Control Act, Migratory Bird Treat Act or the Endangered Species Act.
The draft bill offers a better look at the mindset behind the Pentagon's complaints: "Federal departments and agencies shall not place the conservation of public lands, or the preservation or recovery of endangered, threatened, or other protected species found on military lands, above the need to ensure that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines receive the greatest possible preparation for, and protection from, the hazards and rigor of combat through realistic training on military lands and in military airspace."
As related to noise issues, the act would explictly exempt military noise from regulation, and leave the Department of Defense as the sole judge of acceptible noise levels: "For purposes Section 4 of the Noise Control Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4903, "environmental noise" shall not include noise caused by military readiness activities involving military weapons or equipment designed for combat use. The Department shall minimize environmental noise caused by military readiness activities involving military weapons or equipment designed for combat use to the extent practical and necessary without diminishment of military training or other capabilities, as determined by the Department."
While few will argue that military readiness should be neglected, the suggestion that the US Government should be exempted from its own laws rubs many the wrong way. There is little evidence that the US Military is under-prepared, and strong biological and moral imperatives behind the existing environmental laws. There is no obvious reason that military activities need to be given priority over the health of the environment.
Indeed, in July 2002, the GAO released a report that found no evidence of military preparedness being negatively affected by environmental regulations. [READ AP STORY]
Re-interpretations of and Exemptions to
Existing Environmental Regulations
Marine Mammal Protection Act
The Navy has proposed a new, weaker definition of "harassment" of marine mammals, which would effectively require certain proof that any military harassment was causing irrefutable harm to the health of the entire population, a legal standard that would be nearly impossible to meet. This new interpretation is being debated as the reauthorization of the MMPA works its way through Congress.
The reauthorization of the Marine Mammal Protection Act was marked up (voted on and amended) by the subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans on July 25, 2002, without an amendments to weaken the harassment definition (thanks to concerted action by marine mammal advocates). However, the MMPA is a key target in the Pentagon's 2003 congressional "battle plan," especially since the courts have raised the bar, calling for more environmental impact studies. If the new definition of harassment can be pushed through Congress, the ground for the current legal challenges to the Low Freqency Active Sonar system would dissolve, making the cases moot.
NEPA: First Salvo in Limiting Environmental Regulations
The Bush administration is offering a bold new interpretation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the landmark Nixon-era regulations that require the development of Environmental Impact Statements. In stark contrast to both administrative and judicial interpretation up to now, which has considered EIS's to be necessary for projects on all the world's oceans, the Bush Justice Department has argued in court that NEPA only applies within the 3-mile territorial limit.
Since this argument surfaced in court in the summer of 2002 (in a case involving a new round of tests of the Navy's new-generation sonar systems, this time in "littoral", or in-shore waters), White House meetings between the Justice Department, Navy, and other federal agencies, a new consensus is forming within the adminisration about this reinterpretation. Source: AP, 8/9/02
First Court Response: NEPA Does Apply Beyond 3-Mile Territorial Limit Source: Los Angeles Times, 9/20/02 [READ ARTICLE]
Congressional Action in 2002
The 2002 Congress responded to Pentagon initiatives by adding riders to the Defense Authorization Bill. The House of Representatives declined to weaken the MMPA, but did add military exemptions to the Migratory Bird Act and Endangered Species Act.
Neither the Senate Armed Services Committee nor the full Senate added any environmental exemption amendments. Now, the Defense Authorization Bill is awaiting action in a Senate/House Conference Committee, which will decide whether to retain or strip the amendments to the final bill. No noise-specific regulations have been targeted so far, though the Migratory Bird Act provisions could be argued to put songbirds in more jeopardy; Marine Mammal Protection Act exemptions could open the door to Navy deployment of the LFA sonar system.
100 Members of Congress signed a letter to the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, objecting to the amendments put forward by the Department of Defense. [SEE LETTER]
Following are details on the amendments as included in the House Defense Authorization Bill. Careful reading may lead some to question the alarmist reactions of environmentalists; if Chairman Joel Hefley (R-CO) is to be trusted in his interpretations of the clauses, they may be seen as honest attempts to balance the environmental and military equation. They are certainly, as sketched by Hefley, less stark than the language in the draft bill being proposed for next year. Nevertheless, many will argue, with validity, that softening the edges of these environmental protections, leaving them subject to admistrative rather than statutory protection, is a dangerous road to be heading down.
May 1, 2002
OPENING STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE JOEL HEFLEY, CHAIRMAN, MILITARY READINESS SUBCOMMITTEE
FULL ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE MARKUP - READINESS PROVISION
" I am pleased to report to the committee on the actions taken by the Military Readiness Subcommittee on its portion of the fiscal year 2003 Defense Authorization Bill.
"The subcommittee has also included two provisions that, I believe, strike a needed balance between the needs of our military to adequately and effectively train for combat, and the need to protect our environment.
"First, we have included an amendment to the Endangered Species Act, that the Secretary of Interior would no longer make designations of critical habitat on military installations where an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan is in place. This plan must be approved through mutual consent of the environmental team from the military installation as well as both the state and the federal Fish and Wildlife Services. In areas where a critical habitat will be designated, the amendment will instruct the Secretary of Interior to weigh the impact of the designation on national security along with the existing obligation under current law to consider the economic impact of the designation. The bill language clearly specifies that nothing will diminish the obligation of the Department of Defense to comply with the Endangered Species Act, which makes it illegal to take an action that will result in the extinction of, or harm to, an endangered or threatened species.
"Second, we have included an amendment to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to permit the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a permit to the Department for the accidental taking of migratory birds incidental to authorized military readiness activities. Under current law, the Fish and Wildlife Service has authority to issue permits for economic loss or public safety, such as clearing a golf course or an airport runway. Although those takings are INTENTIONAL, there is, incredibly, no existing authority to issue a permit when the Department accidentally takes a bird while it is engaged in training activities.
"The Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other regulatory agencies have all reviewed these provisions and fully support our actions. We are all committed to ensuring that our national security needs are fulfilled. I am confident that the mark before us today will provide the necessary tools for our military men and women to not only sustain readiness, but to soundly and fully ensure national security."
Press Coverage of Military Exemption Issue
See Washington Post article, April 30: [READ ARTICLE]
See Los Angeles Times article, April 29: [READ ARTICLE]
See Reuter's Article on Subcommittee Action, April 27: [READ ARTICLE]
See New York Times article, March 29: [READ ARTICLE]
For Release: Monday, April 1, 2002
Contact: Jessica Vallette Revere (202) 265-7337
PENTAGON TO SEEK ENVIRONMENTAL EXEMPTIONS
Overrides Endangered Species, Clean Water & Marine Mammal Laws
Washington, DC - The US Department of Defense is seeking wide-ranging exemptions from environmental laws for its domestic training and weapons development, according to a draft proposal released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Under the draft bill, now in circulation to congressional committees, bombing ranges, air bases and training grounds would not be subject to key protections contained within the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Noise Control Act, Migratory Bird Treat Act or the Endangered Species Act.
The bill would free the military: to contaminate public drinking water with munitions, discharge air pollutants, and exceed domestic noise limits. It would also give the Navy much greater leeway to engage in actions or to test weapons systems that may harm whales and other marine mammals.
"This bill is the product of the Pentagon talking to itself and ignores the fact that most of these environmental laws already contain carefully drawn exceptions for military activities," commented PEER General Counsel Dan Meyer, a former naval officer. "Our military does not have to despoil our shores to defend them."
During a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing in mid-March, Pentagon officials testified that they would seek legislation in the 2003 Defense Authorization Act to shield their operations from compliance with anti-pollution and wildlife protection statutes. The philosophy of the approach is encapsulated in one of the draft bill's findings:
"Federal departments and agencies shall not place the conservation of public lands, or the preservation or recovery of endangered, threatened, or other protected species found on military lands, above the need to ensure that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines receive the greatest possible preparation for, and protection from, the hazards and rigor of combat through realistic training on military lands and in military airspace."
"As written, this bill is a license to ravage the earth," commented Meyer.
(NOTE: This draft bill was leaked in April 2002 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. In January 2003, PEER leaked a more recent Pentagon document outlining the current "battle plan" for Congressional releif from environmental laws. It is no longer clear that this bill will be introduced in toto, probably because of the surprising resistance that the much smaller efforts triggered last year. The new Pentagon strategy follows in the spirit of this bill, but breaks the effort into smaller pieces, with a multi-year strategy for gradually implementing changes. See the main page of this AE.org Special Report for the latest news.)
Sustainable Defense Readiness and Environmental Protection Act (SDREPA)
Sec. ___. Congressional Findings and declaration of purposes and policy
The Congress finds and declares that -
(1) military readiness is essential to the security of the Unites
States, to the protection of the lives and well-being of our citizens, and to the preservation of our freedoms, economic prosperity, and our national heritage;
(2) a well-trained military is a principal component of military readiness;
(3) to be well-trained and prepared, soldiers, sailors, Marines, and
airmen must train in the same manner as they fight;
(4) live fire training is an integral and necessary part of realistic
(5) military lands and training ranges (including land, sea and air
training and operating areas) exist to ensure military preparedness by providing realistic training opportunities;
(6) among the elements of our national heritage protected by the
shield of military readiness is our nation's environment - our land, air, and water as well as the fish, wildlife, and plant species that inhabit them;
(7) in addition to defending against foreign threats, the military
acts as trustee, helping to protect the environment by its prudent and conscientious management of the natural resources of our military lands;
(8) largely as a result of this stewardship, military lands present
acceptable habitat for plants and wildlife, including protected species;
(9) airspace used for military training and space vehicle testing,
research, and development has been impacted by designation of new and the expansion of existing wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, national parks, national forests, marine sanctuaries, and other conservation and recreational designations;
(10) public lands and waters, including, but not limited to, the
National Park System units, National Forests, wilderness areas, and marine sanctuaries designated by federal legislation, frequently lie beneath airspace critical to providing training, testing, research, and development, for the Armed Forces of the Unites States and its allies;
(11) continued use of the airspace over public lands and waters,
including low-level training routes and special use airspace, is essential for military purposes and is not incompatible with the protection and proper management of the natural, environmental, cultural, and other resources and values of public lands.
(12) in recent years, the expansion of state and federal environmental
laws and regulations, along with population growth, economic development, increased land use, designation and expansion of conservation and recreational areas, and urban and suburban sprawl, among other factors, have significantly restricted the military's access to and use of military lands and training ranges, and limited its ability to engage in live-fire training;
(13) this phenomenon - known as "encroachment" - has markedly
restricted the military's ability to train realistically and, unless checked, promises to produce further restrictions in the future;
(14) encroachment has already negatively affected military readiness
and will continue to erode it unless this trend is reversed;
(15) in some cases, the application of certain environmental laws and
regulations to military lands and training ranges threatens to thwart their primary mission as military training facilities and to convert them to nature preserves and wildlife refuges;
(16) national security requires that the military be able to train
effectively, and not be impeded through the application of environmental laws and regulations that frustrate the use of military lands and training ranges for their intended purpose; and
(17) legislation is required to ensure that, when balancing between
military and environmental considerations in determining the proper use of military lands and training ranges, military training and readiness receive appropriate consideration.
The purposes of this chapter are to
(1) protect the lives and well-being of citizens of the United States
and to preserve their freedoms, economic prosperity, and national heritage by ensuring military readiness;
(2) ensure military readiness by addressing problems created by
encroachment on military lands, airspace, and training;
(3) reaffirm the principle that military lands and airspace exist to
ensure military preparedness;
(4) shield military lands, airspace, and ranges, including land, sea,
and air training and operating areas, from encroachment while ensuring that the Department of Defense remains mindful of its stewardship responsibilities;
(5) establish the appropriate balance between military readiness and
encroachment by according priority to military training and readiness; and
(6) establish a framework to ensure long-term sustainability of
It is the policy of the Unites States that -
(1) Federal departments and agencies shall not place the conservation
of public lands, or the preservation or recovery of endangered, threatened, or other protected species found on military lands, above the need to ensure that soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines receive the greatest possible preparation for, and protection from, the hazards and rigor of combat through realistic training on military lands and in military airspace;
(2) Federal departments and agencies shall cooperate with State and
local agencies to resolve conflicts between economic growth and development and national security; and
(3) The Department of Defense should continue to engage in vigorous
conservation practices consistent with its military mission.
Sec. ___. Definitions
For purposes of this statute:
(1) The term "military readiness activities" includes all training and
operations that prepare the men and women of the U.S. military forces for combat, and testing of military equipment, vehicles, weapons, and sensors for proper operation or suitability for combat use.
(2) The term "combat" or "combat use" includes all forms of armed
conflict and operational employment and those support functions necessary for armed conflict and operational employment, including transportation of personnel, weapons, supplies, ammunition and other military material to the vicinity of actual or potential armed conflict, intelligence gathering in support of actual or potential armed conflict, command of and communications between military units, and similar activities necessary for the successful prosecution of armed conflict, whether or not conducted at the scene of actual conflict.
(3) The term "the Department" means the Department of Defense and the
(4) The term "Defense Components" means the Military Departments, the
Military Services, and the combat support agencies as defined in 10 U.S.C. § 193.
(5) The term "agency" means any Executive Department of the United
States, or any component, officer, employee, or agent thereof.
Sec. ___. Military readiness and the conservation of protected species.
(a) Critical habitat for threatened and endangered species.
(1) Critical habitat, as defined under Section 3 of the Endangered
Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1532(5), shall not be designated on any lands, or other geographical areas, owned or controlled by the Department, or designated for its use, for which an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan has been completed under subsection (a) of this section.
(2) Nothing in this subsection shall eliminate the requirement for
agency consultation under section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1538(a)(2)."
(b) Migratory Birds
When the Department or any other agency takes any action the purpose of which is to take any migratory bird, any part, nest, or eggs of any such bird, or any product, whether or not manufactured, which consists, or is composed in whole or part, of any such bird or any part, nest, or egg thereof, included in the terms of the conventions described in section 703 of Title 16 of the United States Code, the Department or agency shall be subject to, and comply with, such regulations governing the taking of migratory birds, parts, nests, or eggs as shall be promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior under section 704 of that title, in the same manner and to the same extent as any nongovernmental entity. For purposes of this section and section 703 of Title 16, an action taken by the Department or any other agency that is within the scope of the agency's legal authority, such as military readiness activities are for the Department, and that incidentally results in the taking of migratory birds, or parts, nests, or eggs of any such birds, is not an action the purpose of which is to take such birds, parts, nests, or eggs, and shall not require a permit from the Secretary of the Interior. This section shall apply to any requirement whether substantive or procedural (including any record keeping or reporting requirement, any requirement respecting permits and other requirement whatsoever) for actions the purpose of which is to take any migratory bird, bird part, nest, or eggs.
(c) Marine mammals
For purposes of chapter 31 of title 16 of the United States Code, harassment is any act of the Department or any person that:
(1) injures or has the significant potential to injure a marine mammal
or marine mammal stock in the wild; or
(2) disturbs or is likely to disturb a marine mammal or marine mammal
stock in the wild by causing disruption of natural behavior patterns, including, but not limited to, migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding, or sheltering to a point where such behavioral patterns are abandoned or significantly altered; or
(3) is directed toward a specific individual, group, or stock of
marine mammals in the wild that is likely to disturb the specific individual, group, or stock of marine mammals by disrupting behavior, including, but not limited to migration, surfacing, nursing, breeding, feeding or sheltering.
Sec. ___. Noise.
For purposes Section 4 of the Noise Control Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4903, "environmental noise" shall not include noise caused by military readiness activities involving military weapons or equipment designed for combat use. The Department shall minimize environmental noise caused by military readiness activities involving military weapons or equipment designed for combat use to the extent practical and necessary without diminishment of military training or other capabilities, as determined by the Department.
Sec. ___. Conformity with State Implementation Plans for air quality.
In all cases in which the requirements of Clean Air Act Subsection 176(c), 42 U.S.C. 7506(c) would have applied to proposed military readiness activities, the Department shall not be prohibited from engaging in such military readiness activities, but shall:
(1) estimate for all criteria pollutants for which the area is
designated "nonattainment" the quantity of emissions that are caused by the military readiness activities;
(2) promptly notify the state air quality planning agency for the
affected area of such emission estimates; and
(3) cooperate with the State for the purpose of ensuring that military
readiness activities conform to the applicable State Implementation Plan within five years of the date new activities begin.
Sec. ___. Discharges of munitions and military equipment to waters of
the United States.
For purposes of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended by the Clean Water Act, the term "dredged or fill material," as used in section 404, 33 U.S.C. 1344, and the definition of "pollutant" in section 502(6), 33 U.S.C. 1362(6), do not include explosives, munitions, munitions fragments or constituents thereof, or military weaponry and equipment discharged to water for a purpose other than disposal, provided such discharge occurs pursuant to an authorized Federal or State program. Explosives, munitions, munitions fragments or constituents thereof, and military equipment or weaponry, when used for its intended purpose, including during testing and training, is not discharged for the purpose of disposal and does not constitute dredged or fill material. The Department of Defense shall minimize discharges of such material to waters of the United States to the extent practical and necessary without diminishment of military training or other capabilities, as determined by the Department.
Sec. ___. Range management and restoration.
(a) Definition of solid waste.
The term "solid waste," as used in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. § 6901, et seq., does not include explosives, munitions, munition fragments, or constituents thereof that are or have been deposited and remain on an operational military range incident to their normal and expected use unless such used or fired material:
(1) is removed from the range for reclamation, treatment, or disposal,
treatment prior to disposal, or storage prior to or in lieu of reclamation, treatment, disposal, or treatment prior to disposal;
(2) is recovered, collected, and then disposed of by burial or landfilling;
(3) lands off-range and is not promptly rendered safe and/or
(4) migrates off range, requires a response under 42 U.S.C. § 9601,
et.seq., and is not addressed thereunder.
(b) Definition of release.
The term "release," as used in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, 42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq., shall not include the presence, on a military range, of any explosives, munitions, munitions fragments, or constituents thereof that are or have been deposited incident to its normal and expected use, unless such range has been closed, or unless and only to the extent that explosives, munitions, munitions fragments or constituents migrate off-range and require a response under 42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq.
Sec. ___. Military Overflight And Special Use Airspace Designations
Over Public Lands
(a) Overflights. No designation or management of public lands or
waters as national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, national forests, national monuments, marine sanctuaries or reserves, or other conservation or recreational areas shall preclude existing, modification of existing, or establishment of new military overflights, including low-level overflights of military aircraft, weapons, missiles, rockets, space vehicles or any other military air vehicle, conducted to support military readiness activities.
(b) Special Use Airspace. No designation of public lands or waters as
national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, national forests, national monuments, marine sanctuaries or reserves, or other conservation or recreational areas shall preclude the use of existing, establishment of new, or the modification of existing, units of special use airspace or military training routes utilized to support military readiness activities.
Sec. ___. Exemption from certain environmental laws during war or
declared national emergency.
The President, during time of war or a declared national emergency, may exempt any action undertaken by the Department of Defense and its components from compliance with any requirement of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq., and the Coastal Zone Management Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1451 et seq., if the Secretary of Defense determines that such an exemption is necessary for reasons of national security.
Exemptions granted under this section shall be for a period of not more than two years. Additional exemptions for periods not to exceed two years each may be granted for the same action upon the Secretary of Defense making a new determination. Exemptions granted under this section shall terminate no more than 180 days after the end of the war or declared national emergency. The President shall submit to the Congress, during the period of the war or national emergency, an annual report on all exemptions granted under this section, together with the reasons for granting such exemptions.
Letter signed by 100 Members of Congress, objecting to Exemption Initiative
This letter applies to the efforts to attach amendments to this year's Defense Authorization Bill, not to the draft bill being prepared for the next legislative session.
April 26, 2002
Oppose Stealth Attempt to Exempt DOD from Key Environmental Laws
We are writing as senior members of the Energy and Commerce, Transportation
and Infrastructure, and Resources Committees, and as Co-Chairs of the House
Oceans Caucus and House Coastal Caucus, to invite you to sign the attached
letter objecting to rushed consideration of legislation to exempt the
Department of Defense (DOD) from landmark environmental laws.
DOD submitted a legislative proposal to exempt itself from six key
environmental laws, claiming that established environmental protections are
incompatible with military training. The House Armed Services Committee is
expected to include some of these changes in the Defense Authorization bill,
to be marked up in full committee on May 1.
Regardless of the merits of the proposed changes, we believe this is an
* the DOD proposal was submitted to Armed Services
on Friday evening, April 19, just a few days before committee mark-up,
leaving inadequate time for review.
* the six laws designated for exemptions fall under
the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce, Transportation, and Resources
Committees, which have not had a chance to fully review the DOD proposal or
* the Armed Services Committee refused to allow
representatives of local and state governments, communities, tribes, and
environmental groups to testify on this issue, and held no hearings on the
specifics of the DOD proposal.
We urge your signature on a letter to Armed Services Committee Chairman
Stump, asking that he not take action on these environmental laws until
other interested parties are given a full opportunity for review and action.
A copy of the letter is attached.
If you would like to sign on to this letter, please contact Heather Zichal
with Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (5-4671) or Jenny Hauser with Rep. Tom Allen
(5-6116) by Tuesday, April 30th.
CONGRESSMAN TOM ALLEN CONGRESSMAN FRANK PALLONE, JR.
CONGRESSMAN JOHN DINGELL CONGRESSMAN JAMES OBERSTAR
CONGRESSMAN NICK RAHALL CONGRESSMAN SAM FARR
May 1, 2002
The Honorable Bob Stump
House Armed Services Committee
2120 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Stump:
We write today in opposition to the environmental exemptions slated for
inclusion in the Defense Authorization bill. Many of these provisions are
under the jurisdiction of other committees, and we believe until those
committees have had the opportunity to review and debate these issues, and
until other stakeholders in these laws have a full opportunity to do the
same, the House Armed Services Committee should not include these provisions
in the Defense Authorization bill.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has submitted a legislative proposal to
exempt the department from six of our most important environmental and
public safety laws:
Endangered Species Act
Marine Mammal Protection Act
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Clean Air Act
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
We are particularly concerned that there is an attempt to rush this
significant legislative proposal into law without sufficient public
scrutiny. This package was submitted to your Committee on the evening of
Friday, April 19, only a few days before scheduled mark-up of the Defense
Authorization bill. There has been no hearing on the specifics of this
proposal, and only one hearing this year in the House Armed Services
Committee on the general issue, at which no representatives of communities,
state or local governments, tribal governments, industry or environmental
organizations were allowed to testify.
We recognize the needs of the Armed Services for adequate training
facilities to promote operational readiness. At the same time, we cannot
ignore that the American public has a long standing and well demonstrated
demand for protection of their natural heritage and interest in keeping the
communities in which they live clean and healthy. We are concerned that
rushed consideration of DoD's proposal could undo the balance our society
has achieved over the past three decades by carving out a special exemption
for one aspect of society, the U.S. military, from the laws with which all
other Americans must comply. Specific statutory exemptions or regulatory
alternatives already exist in current law that address DoD 's concerns.
To address the issue of so-called environmental "encroachment," we favor a
broad and cooperative approach that involves not just the views of
Administration officials, but also those of the wide array of stakeholders
in our nation's environmental laws, including federal agencies, state and
local governments, industry representatives, tribal governments, citizen
groups and others. Likewise, the effort to address this issue must involve
the full consideration of these proposals by relevant Committees with
jurisdiction over these laws.
Therefore, we ask that before action is taken in your Committee on the
proposal, the committees of jurisdiction receive full opportunity to study
and comment on the Administration's proposal, and to solicit the views of
the states, the environmental community, and other stakeholders, and
advocate for the interests of the American public, before action is taken in
your Committee on the legislation.
We appreciate your attention to these concerns, and look forward to working
with you on a comprehensive and balanced approach to address this issue.
cc: The Honorable Ike Skelton, Ranking Member
The Honorable Joel Hefley, Chairman, Readiness Subcommittee
The Honorable Solomon Ortiz, Ranking Member, Readiness Subcommittee
List of Signatories to DOD Letter