PENTAGON SEEKING LAW EXEMPTIONS.Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE Edwards Air Force Base, U.S. military installation, 301,000 acres (121,805 hectares), S Calif., NE of Lancaster; est. 1933. It is one of the largest air force bases in the United States and has the world's longest runway. - The Pentagon is seeking exemptions in five environmental laws that the Defense Department say inhibits training and testing missions - a claim environmental organizations dispute.
The Pentagon wants exemptions from the environmental laws included in the 2004 Defense Authorization Bill, which Congress will begin hearings on next week.
Pentagon spokesmen did not respond Thursday to requests for comment. However, in recent interviews, Pentagon officials said they need greater flexibility in the laws to ensure that training and weapons testing is not disrupted.
Environmental and conservation groups counter that the military already has the flexibility to do its job and that there is no evidence to suggest that protecting the environment is hurting preparedness. An example of that flexibility is the fact that the secretary of defense has authority to exempt any activity from the Endangered Species Act The federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) (16 U.S.C.A. §§ 1531 et seq.) was enacted to protect animal and plant species from extinction by preserving the ecosystems in which they survive and by providing programs for their conservation. , officials said.
``The Pentagon is using the threat of war to gut 30 years of public interest legislation,'' said Daniel Patterson of the Center for Biological Diversity The Center for Biological Diversity combines conservation biology with litigation, policy advocacy, and an innovative strategic vision to secure a future for animals and plants hovering on the brink of extinction, for the wilderness they need to survive, and by extension for the , which in the past has sued government agencies to stiffen enforcement of environmental laws. ``It's convenient for them to use the drumbeat See Drumbeat 2000. of war.''
The Pentagon made a similar push in Congress last year and was largely defeated, with the exception of gaining exemptions from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Patterson said.
This year, the Pentagon wants changes in laws governing endangered species, clean air, marine life, and toxic-waste cleanups.
Patterson said if such exemptions are granted to the Defense Department, it would open the door for other government agencies, such as Homeland Security and the Energy Department, to seek similar exemptions.
``This has the dangerous possibility of becoming a runaway train,'' Patterson said.
The proposed changes possibly could affect Edwards Air Force Base, and others could affect other Southern California installations such as Naval Base Ventura County and ocean testing ranges.
Among the changes sought by the Pentagon are permission for activities that cause ``insignificant behavioral changes'' on whales and seals, which under the Marine Mammal Protection Act The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 prohibits, with certain exceptions, the taking of marine mammals in United States waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the U.S. military officials fear could be labeled illegal ``harassment'' of wildlife.
For example, U.S. Navy officials last year had to get permission to launch unarmed target missiles off the California coast from San Nicolas Island San Nicolas Island (sometimes shortened as San Nic or SNI) is the most remote of California's Channel Islands. It is part of Ventura County. The 14,562 acre (58.93 km² or 22. , where seals gather on the shore.
The Navy got permission only after the National Marine Fisheries Service The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is a United States federal agency. A division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Commerce, NMFS is responsible for the stewardship and management of the nation's living marine answered objections to its conclusion that noise making a seal blink its eyes, turn its head or crawl a few feet along a beach did not mean it was harassed.
The Pentagon also plans to ask that the Endangered Species Act be amended to allow the Defense Department to use Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans to protect creatures rather than having to maintain critical habitat areas. That change would prevent the fragmentation of testing and training areas, military officials say.
The Pentagon wants the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), enacted in 1976, is a Federal law of the United States contained in 42 U.S.C. §§6901-6992k. It is usually pronounced as "rick-rah" or "Wreck-rah. amended to clarify that munitions mu·ni·tion
War materiel, especially weapons and ammunition. Often used in the plural.
tr.v. mu·ni·tioned, mu·ni·tion·ing, mu·ni·tions
To supply with munitions. are not solid wastes. That would allow ranges to be continued This article is about the Elton John box set. For the plot device commonly featuring the phrase "To be continued", see Cliffhanger.
To Be Continued to be used and would prevent that law from being used to shut them down.
The Pentagon is seeking to exclude live-fire training and testing from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. The law would still apply to closed ranges and areas away from ranges.
The Pentagon is seeking to amend the Clean Air Act to allow the military five years to bring its emissions into compliance with state regulations. That will allow the Defense Department more flexibility for fielding and basing weapons and aircraft.