Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Daniel R. Patterson, Ecologist, Center for Biological Diversity, 909.659.6053 x 306
Suzanne Carrier, Earthjustice, 202.667.4500 x 213

More Information: Wall Street Journal, Letter from environmental leaders to Congress (pdf), Factsheet which outlines the Bill.

Environmental Community Rejects Defense Department Attempt to Sidestep Laws
DOD uses last-minute changes to seek broad exemptions from environmental laws

Washington, DC -- More than twenty of the nation’s leading conservation groups today sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers’ opposition to legislation that would allow the Department of Defense to ignore certain environmental laws. The groups specifically oppose the exemption language in the defense authorization bill, which they say contains “broad sweeping exemptions…[that] would likely result in irreparable harm to public health and the environment.”

“The American people have long supported these important environmental and public health laws…While we support US military efforts to prepare for military action, such as efforts to protect national security, additional exemptions are not necessary to accomplish this goal. Many of these laws already have specific provisions that allow requests by the Department of Defense for waivers in the interest of national security…We firmly believe no government should be above the law including the laws that protect the air and water in and around our military facilities, the health of the people who live on bases and nearby, and America’s wildlife and public lands,” the groups state in their letter.

According to the groups, changes allowing military exemptions were proposed by the Department of Defense at the last minute, without sufficient consideration. The groups also charge that many public interest groups, the National Governors’ Association, the National Association of Attorneys General, and the National Conference of State Legislatures were denied the opportunity to testify at a hearing regarding DOD’s environmental issues. They support a process where all parties can work together on these issues to develop creative and collaborative solutions.

Among other damaging effects the legislation could have, the groups highlight toxic contamination of air and water, destruction of endangered species critical habitat, threats to migratory birds and their nests, and harm to marine mammals. The groups claim that this laundry list of exemptions is both damaging and entirely unnecessary.

“Our existing laws already provide the proper balance between military readiness and environmental protection,” today’s letter to Congress concludes. “Issues need to be addressed under our current laws.”

The military readiness subcommittee action on the legislation is scheduled for this Thursday, from 11:30 to 1:30 in 2212 Rayburn House Office Building.


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