Washington, DC-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is directing all military service chiefs to develop plans for President Bush to invoke national security exemptions to an array of environmental laws, according to a memo released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).The memo orders the Army, Navy and Air Force secretaries to forward domestic military practices they wish to see exempted from anti-pollution, noise control and wildlife protection laws.
Under current law, many environmental statutes have exemptions for activities deemed by the President to be “necessary” for reasons “of national security” or in the “paramount interest of the United States.”These exemptions, however, have never been used.
In a March 7 memo, Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz states, without citing specific cases, that “environmental regulation and litigation threaten our continued ability” to conduct “necessary military training and testing.”The memo lists ten laws to which the Pentagon will seek national security exemptions either “for a specified period of time or indefinitely”:
Anti-Pollution Laws: the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act;
Toxic Disposal Laws: the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund), and the Toxic Substances Control Act;
Land Management: Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act;
Noise Limits: the Noise Control Act; and
Wildlife Protection: the Endangered Species Act.
At the same time, the Pentagon is also asking Congress to rewrite several environmental laws to eliminate or limit their effects on “military readiness” activities. The Wolfowitz memo suggests that the Department of Defense has not used exemptions already available to it due to “our past restraint” for which “we should be commended.”In a June 2002 report, the General Accounting Office concluded that there was no identifiable loss of military readiness due to the need to comply with environmental laws [www.gao.gov/new.items/d02614.pdf].Tacitly conceding this lack of quantification, the Wolfowitz memo directs the services to come up with examples of where environmental laws hinder military readiness and to forward them up the chain-of-command.
“This smug directive portrays a Pentagon cynically playing politics with public health and environmental protection,” commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization exposed a Pentagon plan for a three-year campaign to immunize itself from virtually all environmental restraints.”This memo is, in effect, an all points bulletin begging for examples to establish an illusory case that environmental compliance hurts national security. It is the height of chutzpah that the Defense Department wants Congress to change laws even though the Pentagon has yet to explore the options and flexibility available under the current statutes.”