Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords
Department of Defense Proposals Regarding the Environment
I welcome our witnesses today and note that we have several who have traveled great distances to attend this hearing.
On our first panel we will hear testimony from Admiral William Fallon who is Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
On our second panel, we will hear from Ms. Jamie Clark from the National Wildlife Federation, former director of the Fish and Wildlife Service in the Clinton Administration. I note from Ms. Clark's written testimony that she has extensive experience with defense matters, including a position as Fish and Wildlife Administrator for the Department of the Army. We will hear from several state witnesses: Mr. Dan Miller, First Assistant Attorney General from the State of Colorado who is submitting his written testimony on behalf of Colorado and several other states, including the Attorneys General of Arizona, California, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Utah, Idaho and Washington. Mr. Stanley Phillippe from the State of California will testify for the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials, and Mr. William Hurd, the Solicitor General from the Commonwealth of Virginia, will testify. We will hear from Mr. Bonner Cohen a senior fellow from the Lexington Institute. And, I am pleased to welcome Mr. David Henkin who will testify for Earth Justice. Mr. Henkin has flown here on short notice from Hawaii. His effort certainly shows us the level of interest, or perhaps I should say concern, with these proposals.
The proposals to which I refer were included in the Administration's defense authorization bill this year. In effect, these proposals that are contained in title 12 of that bill, amend six environmental statutes. Five of these statutes are within the jurisdiction of this Committee. I am not aware of any precedent for Congress acting in such a broad-sweeping manner to substantially alter existing environmental law through freestanding legislation. Moreover, these proposals were never submitted to this Committee, but were proposed for inclusion in a bill that would not have been considered by this Committee.
Through the wisdom of the Armed Services Committee, and I would particularly like to thank Chairman Levin, these proposals were not included in the DoD authorization bill either in Committee or in the final bill passed by the Senate. I understand, however, that there may be plans to include these provisions during the upcoming conference on the DoD authorization bill. I would be sorely disappointed, and I would oppose such an effort. I also would like to note that Senator Lieberman, who is a Member of the Armed Services Committee, may not be able to attend the hearing today. Nevertheless, I am authorized to say that the Senator opposes these proposals on both procedural and substantive grounds, and that he intends to oppose any effort to advance these proposals in conference.
Already, I have received a large volume of letters expressing concern about the scope and eventual effect of these proposals should they become law. I would like to include these letters in this hearing record. Even without the benefit of the testimony we will hear today, I am already aware that these proposals as drafted present concerns, particularly for the states, and also for citizens living near federal training facilities.
These proposals are complex and should be carefully examined by experts in both federal and state law. Moreover, since many environmental laws contain provisions that favor federal facilities by allowing for exemptions when the President declares an exemption to be in the national interest, we must carefully examine the need for these proposals. I am not aware of many instances, if any, where the defense agencies have sought the waivers available to them under current law. Instead, the agencies now seek permanent waivers of the laws that apply to their facilities.
Congress intended the environmental laws to apply to the federal facilities. If any other entity were asking for permanent exemptions from environmental laws, we would afford no less scrutiny to their proposals.
And so, I would like to make clear that by conducting this hearing today I do not intend to clear the way for these proposals to be added to the DoD bill in conference. I agreed to hold a hearing on these proposals when the Ranking Member filed them as amendments to our water infrastructure bill earlier this year. Frankly, I believe that amendment would have been defeated at that time, but rather than put it to a vote, I agreed instead to conduct a hearing, consistent with my desire to proceed in regular order on matters within this Committee's jurisdiction.
It is my strong belief that if these proposals move through this Congress, or any future Congress, they should be backed by a convincing demonstration of need and they should be scrutinized, drafted and considered by this Committee. The threshold for a demonstration of need will be quite high.
Finally, there are two provisions amending the Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act that are currently in the House version of the DoD authorization bill. I have received numerous letters of concern about these provisions, and I am aware that no Committee of jurisdiction over these statutes has examined these proposals to evaluate these concerns. With so little information to back them, it is unfortunate that these provisions appear in the House bill. As such, I am opposed to their inclusion in the final DoD authorization bill.
I look forward to hearing the testimony today. I would note that some of our witnesses may have chosen to speak to the provisions contained in the Administration's proposals to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This is a statute not in our jurisdiction. This subject was not within the scope of the bipartisan official notice for today's hearing. So, I will ask the witnesses to confine their remarks to those areas of the proposal that are the subject of the hearing today.