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For Immediate Release: Jan 13, 2003
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

PENTAGON READIES NEW ASSAULT ON ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS

DoD "Outreach" Campaign to Secure Statutory Exemptions, Administrative Rollbacks and Executive Order


Washington, DC - The Pentagon is mounting a major drive to secure broad environmental immunity for its domestic training, weapons testing and other "readiness" activities, according to an internal Department of Defense memo released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).The memo outlines an "action agenda" for conducting "a multi-year campaign," including developing a Congressional "political strategy" for "horse trading [and] coalition building."

The Pentagon plan, presented as "a consensus product" at the staff level for presentation to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, calls for -

New statutory exemptions in the Clean Air Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and federal toxic waste laws;

Relaxation of regulatory standards in the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and federal wildlife protection laws. The plan also calls for a new Executive Order by the President to require all agencies to assess the impact of any of their actions on national defense; and

Creation of standards for invoking current national security exemptions in environmental laws.

In the last session of Congress, the Pentagon failed to obtain the same statutory exemptions, despite a post-September 11th atmosphere in which Congress granted almost all other military requests. The memo attributes the defeat of what it euphemistically calls "the sustainable range effort" to being put on the "defensive" by environmental groups and the need "for more sustained 'Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield.'"

The Pentagon contends that compliance with natural resource protection laws is an "encroachment" on its readiness posture, since realistic training exercises, particularly those involving live munitions, must be adapted or scheduled to avoid nesting sites for migratory birds, critical habitat for endangered species or local clean air standards. A recent General Accounting Office report found that the Pentagon could not quantify the significance of encroachments and is not consolidating and coordinating exercises so as to avoid conflicts altogether.

"The Pentagon is unquestionably the biggest polluter and most recalcitrant environmental violator on the planet," commented PEER General Counsel Dan Meyer, a former US Navy gunnery officer."The Pentagon is the last place that any sane policymaker should want to confer environmental immunity."

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Download a copy of the "Sustainable Ranges 2003 Decision Briefing to the Deputy Security of Defense".

The GAO Report, Military Training: DOD Lacks a Comprehensive Plan to Manage Encroachment on Training Ranges. GAO-02-614 June 11, 2002, is posted athttp://www.gao.gov/