Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer
Hearing on DODís Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative
July 9, 2002
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for holding this hearing today.†††††
We have the finest military in the world.† And the brave men and women of our military are the best fighting force in the world.† That has been evident to all of the world since the tragic events of September 11.
Over the last 10 months, we have called on our military to carry out a global fight against terrorism.† That is an important fight.† And the military has legitimate needs in carrying out that fight.
But, it is not legitimate, in my view, to use the war against terrorism as an excuse to run roughshod over our environmental laws.
The Department of Defense has asked Congress to give it blanket exemptions from six environmental laws that everybody else -- in the public and private sector -- is required to meet.
Yet, I have seen nothing specific to substantiate DoDís claims that broad exemptions from some of our most important environmental laws are necessary.
First, Mr. Chairman, most environmental laws already have an exemption for national security.† For example, the Endangered Species Act allows for an exemption if† ďthe Secretary of Defense finds that such exemption is necessary for reasons of national security.Ē
Second, in the cases that Iím familiar with, under existing environmental laws, the military has been allowed to continue with environmentally destructive activities as long as reasonable modifications are used to protect human health and the environment.
Third, the military in general does not have a problem getting permits for their projects.† To my knowledge, the National Marine Fisheries Services has never denied the military a permit under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.† We do not need to weaken the law.
A recent example in my state at Fort Irwin in southern California involves the Endangered Species Act.† That base is home to numerous endangered desert species and includes some of the last remaining habitat for the desert tortoise.† The Army engages in heavy-duty tank maneuvers across this landscape, despite the tortoise.† However, it avoids certain areas and takes certain precautions to minimize the impact to the tortoise.† That is an appropriate balance.
We entrust the military to 25 million acres of public land.† A lot of that land contains important habitat for fish, wildlife and birds, including approximately 300 threatened and endangered species.† While I am sure the military would be pleased to have those lands designated a sacrifice zone for wildlife, we canít afford to.† Too much of the rest of our landscape has been decimated.† The military, like all federal agencies that are entrusted with our precious and multi-purpose public lands, must do its part.†
Our military exists to protect the health and well-being of our homeland and our citizens.† Yet ironically, the effect of DODís far-reaching and audacious proposal is that its domestic activities would lead to the degradation of our homeland.† And in the case of the air quality and hazardous waste exemptions that DOD is seeking, it would create a significant public menace.†
I can think of no reason that DOD should be allowed to leave behind munitions, ordnance, and toxic waste.† Under this proposal, DOD would not be required to clean up live ordnance on or off the base!† Why?† How do long-term clean-up efforts affect military readiness?† That is a direct threat to the civilian population.
Similarly, I can think of no reason that the military should be given a blanket exemption from the Clean Air Act for three years.† Why?† Why three years?† And why every facility?† We know that air pollution causes deaths.† We know it causes asthma in children.† If that isnít a threat to ďhomeland security,Ē I donít know what is.
We better have very good reasons to allow increased air pollution, increased toxic waste, and increased wildlife destructionĖ† but I have yet to see any.††
How will killing whales and songbirds increase military readiness?† How will leaving PCBs, heavy metals, and other poisons in our own native soil increase military readiness? How will the release of poisons like sulfur dioxide into our air increase military readiness?† Unless there are valid answers to those questions, there is no justification for this proposal.
Admittedly, the militaryís needs are complex and varied.† In some cases, it may be entirely appropriate that they be relieved temporarily of their environmental obligations so that the nationís security can be ensured.† But that is a serious decision.† And it should be done on a case-by-case basis.† The current statutes provide for such case-by-case decisions.† A blanket exception simply is not necessary.