Washington, DC – The Department of Defense (DOD) formally submitted legislation creating wide-ranging exemptions from environmental protection statutes for bombing ranges, weapons proving grounds and other military “readiness” activities, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Pentagon submitted the bill for inclusion in mark-ups this week for the 2003 Defense Authorization Act.
The DOD bill would carve broad exemptions in the Clean Air Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Endangered Species Act and toxic substance control statutes. The bill closely tracks a draft released by PEER earlier this month.
In its “talking points” describing the legislation, DOD claims the bill, entitled the “Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative,” consists of narrow “clarifications” not broad exemptions.
“This bill is about as subtle as a Sherman tank,” declared PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Under this bill, the Pentagon will have immunity to contaminate communities, foul the air and wipe out wildlife.”
Despite Pentagon claims of consultation with environmental regulatory agencies, PEER has received persistent reports of protests from staff specialists within the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior. For example, new Navy sonar arrays have been linked to beachings of whales and dolphins. Under the bill, marine officials have to prove that the sonar is the operant cause, requiring observations to be made over long periods of time, perhaps even years, thus eviscerating the marine mammal protections.
“The Pentagon is apparently unclear on the concept of Earth Day,” commented Ruch.