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.
A copy of the draft bill is posted on the PEER web site at Draft