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Environmental Issues

The military is seeking special consideration from environmental laws for training, military readiness and national security purposes. The Pentagon sought exemptions from eight landmark environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In April 2002 the Administration sent a legislative package to Congress recommending clarifications to certain environmental statutes as part of the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative (RRPI). The proposed package was prepared to help DoD maintain its ability to train forces and continue to protect the environment in which the military trains. Congress enacted three elements of the proposal but did not act on the remaining five. On 01 May 2002 the House Armed Services Committee voted to allow the Department of Defense to ignore key environmental laws in its activities. However, in November 2002 the Senate passed compromise legislation which gave the Defense Department an interim exemption from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and directed the Interior secretary within a year to come up with regulations permanently exempting military readiness activities from the law.

In 2003 the President resubmitted the remaining RRPI proposals, with some modifications based on both discussion with Congress and other environmental stakeholders and a significant decision last year concerning the MMPA in the SurTASS lawsuit.

As steward of about 25 million acres of land in the United States, the Department of Defense and its military agencies are committed to responsible environmental management. In 1989, the Secretary of Defense issued an Environmental Management Policy Statement throughout the military agencies to "be the Federal leader in agency environmental compliance and protection".

The Department of Defense manages land that is located in sensitive wetlands and along riverbanks, some of the most ecologically significant areas in the world. the location of these real estate holdings makes it imperative that the various military missions are planned and executed in harmony with the environment. The Army supports numerous partnerships with other Federal, State, local, and private resource groups to promote such programs as Partners in Flight, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, Wetlands Protection and Enhancement, and Watchable Wildlife.

Many erroneously believe that the military does not currently acquire land. In fact, the Army, USMC and National Guard acquire more than 2,500 acres per year. Recent examples include Camp Dodge, IA, Ft. Polk, LA, Ft. Campbell (130 acres near the Sabre Army Heliport), and Ft. Bragg/Pope AFB (near Simmons Army Airfield, 100 acres and 10,000 acres). Other installations are considering substantial land acquisitions to avoid encroachment and accompanying noise problems.

Marines train as intensely as they fight; therefore, they need a variety of landscapes on which to conduct training. Over time, however, training can degrade a landscape so that it no longer sustains necessary training levels. In addition, the American people have placed intrinsic value on certain resources; failure to protect those resources under the stewardship of the Marine Corps may lead to legislative, Executive, or judicial directives limiting Marine Corps access to lands necessary to maintain military readiness. Accordingly, all Marine Corps commands are directed to work to guarantee continued access to land, air, and water resources for realistic military training and testing by ensuring that the natural and cultural resources entrusted to the Marine Corps remain healthy, intact, and available for future generations.

Sustainable development is the application of pollution prevention to the life cycle of facilities and infrastructure to ensure the "best fit" of the built environment to the natural environment. It allows the armed services to meet mission needs while conserving resources, avoiding environmental impacts, and creating healthy workplaces that have lasting value.

The Senior Readiness Oversight Council (SROC) convened on June 20th , 2000 to assess challenges to readiness resulting from encroachment of DoD training and testing ranges. Each Service presented its encroachment concerns and discussed the impacts of encroachment on force readiness. The SROC concluded that encroachment presents an increasing limitation on our capability to conduct realistic and effective live training and testing, and that outreach programs must communicate - to Congress, the media and the public - the importance of training ranges to the readiness of forces. The SROC agreed that a comprehensive and coordinated approach to the problem of encroachment is needed and directed that a strategy be developed. On November 27th, 2000 the SROC approved key elements of a long-term strategy for addressing encroachment of DoD training and testing ranges. Initiatives presented to the SROC included the establishment of a Sustainable Ranges Working Group (SRWG), with Service and OSD membership, and the development of draft action plans addressing encroachment issues with potentially significant readiness implications.

Environmental considerations must be key performance parameters in the definition of requirements for major systems and in acquisition processes. Notably, major new weapon systems such as the F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter may have noise and air quality consequences that will impact stationing decisions. DoD Directives are being revised to require more explicit consideration of environmental concerns in requirements generation processes for new weapon systems.

Noise, already a frequent encroachment challenge, will worsen as urban population centers continue to expand and as future generations of combat aircraft become louder. A Unified DoD Noise Program has been formed to coordinate DoD-wide efforts to deal with noise issues affecting test and training. The program will focus on developing new joint-use noise models and tools, improving existing ones, and on identifying and collecting data to support better noise analyses.

Under National Airspace Redesign, commercial air traffic will freely transit airspace currently reserved for military use. The impact will be greatest near large population centers on the east and west coasts, and will affect many major range/airspace complexes. The DoD Policy Board on Federal Aviation met in March and approved the creation of a flag-level joint DoD/DoT oversight group to address issues associated with allowance of free-flight navigation of commercial aircraft.

Urban growth around test and training areas contributes to the emergence of other forms of encroachment, and physically constrains future test and training flexibility. The SROC acknowledged that DoD must emphasize cooperative land use planning around test and training ranges. This would involve expanding programs such as the DoD Joint Land Use Studies to promote active Service planning and coordination for land use at the local and regional levels, and develop action plans for ranges already under pressure from rapid urban growth. The Office of Economic Adjustment, working with OSD and the Services, is exploring ways to expand application of its Joint Land Use studies program around test and training ranges. This effort will help communities to better plan development around DoD ranges before urban growth encroachment begins to impact test and training.

Environmental restrictions on the use of sonar, combined with programs to create additional marine sanctuaries and protected coral reefs, impact marine range operations. The Navy is being designated the executive agent for Maritime Sustainability issues, and is forming a joint service Maritime Sustainability Working Group to address common maritime sustainability issues. The working group will lead a cooperative effort among involved Services to establish consistent impact standards for marine mammals, improve consideration of environmental impacts in weapon systems design, and resource additional marine species data collection efforts.

Military trainers have ample reason for concern when a rare species of plant or animal is discovered on their installation. The Department of Defense carries a disproportionate load in the management of rare species on public lands in the United States. With just 3.4% (9.7 million ha) of the federally-administered land area, the Department of Defense plays host to 26% of listed threatened and endangered species. This compares with the two agencies that account for most federally-owned lands, the Bureau of Land Management (109 million ha) and the Forest Service (77 million ha), which support 17% and 24% of threatened and endangered species, respectively.

Land Administered by Federal Agencies (millions of hectares)

Agency Area % of Total
Bureau of Land Management 108.9 38.3
Forest Service 77.3 27.2
Fish and Wildlife Service 36.4 12.8
National Park Service 30.3 10.6
Bureau of Indian Affairs 21.7 7.6
Department of Defense 9.7 3.4

The reasons for this disparity in rare species occurrence are two-fold. First, many DoD properties, particularly in the eastern United States, are adjacent to or near urban areas and represent some of the last remaining habitat for many species. Restricted public access and limited development on the installations contributed greatly to the preservation of habitat that is vanishing elsewhere. Secondly, DoD has taken a very active stance in the management of rare species. Over the past fifteen years it has expended millions of dollars on the inventory and management of rare species. Equally significant, the Department has made substantive policy changes to ensure not only conservation, but enhancement of extant populations. These efforts and accomplishments have been recognized by prominent national conservation organizations, most notably The Nature Conservancy.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA - 42 U.S.C. s/s 4321 et seq. 1969) is the basic national charter for protection of the environment. The Environmental Impact and Analysis Process implements NEPA and is followed to analyze proposed actions and identify environmental impacts. The Clean Air Act (CAA) established national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) in order to protect the health and general welfare of the public.

NEPA (pronounced KNEE-PA) was one of the first federal laws enacted that established a broad framework for federal agencies to use in ensuring that their actions do not have an adverse affect on the environment. NEPA's basic policy is to assure that all branches of the federal government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major action which significantly affects the environment. NEPA requirements are invoked when airports, buildings, military complexes, highways, parkland purchases, and other such federal activities are proposed. Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements, which are assessments of the likelihood of impacts from alternative courses of action, are required from all federal agencies and are the most visible NEPA requirements. It is the policy of the National Guard to fully comply with the requirements of NEPA.

The primary drivers for pollution prevention programs are Executive Orders (EOs) 12856 and 13101. In particular, EO 12856 directs all federal agencies to comply with the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA) and the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 (PPA). This executive order emphasizes that the Federal Government must demonstrate pollution prevention leadership by improving facility management, incorporating environmental principles in acquisition practices, establishing comprehensive P2 Plans, and developing innovative technologies.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA - 42 U.S.C. s/s 321 et seq. 1976) and supporting CFRs regulate the management of hazardous waste from its generation through disposal, or from "Cradle-to-Grave." The Federal Facility Compliance Act waives the Federal Government's immunity from prosecution for violations of RCRA, and gives regulators the ability to impose fines for RCRA violations, except for Underground Storage Tanks. Any activity that generates, transports, treats, stores, or disposes of Hazardous Waste (HW) and any activity that produces, burns, distributes, or markets any HW-derived fuels must notify the EPA or State environmental agency of their activities, obtain an EPA or State HW generator identification (ID) number, and comply with applicable Federal, State, and local HW laws and regulations.

RCRA (pronounced "rick-rah") gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the authority to control hazardous waste from "cradle-to-grave." This includes the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. RCRA also set forth a framework for the management of non-hazardous solid wastes. The 1986 amendments to RCRA enabled U.S. EPA to address environmental problems that could result from underground tanks storing petroleum and other hazardous substances. RCRA focuses only on active and future facilities and does not address abandoned or historical sites, which fall under CERCLA. The federal Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments to RCRA, enacted in 1984, required phasing out land disposal of hazardous waste. Some of the other mandates of this strict law include increased enforcement authority for U.S. EPA, more stringent hazardous waste management standards, and a comprehensive underground storage tank program. The National Guard complies with RCRA in the conduct of environmental programs concerned with current activities.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA - pronounced SERK-la) provides a federal "Superfund" to clean up uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites as well as accidents, spills, and other emergency releases of pollutants and contaminants into the environment. Through the Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was given power to seek out those parties responsible for any release and assure their cooperation in the cleanup. U.S. EPA cleans up orphan sites when potentially responsible parties cannot be identified or located, or when they fail to act. Through various enforcement tools, U.S. EPA obtains private-party cleanup through orders, consent decrees, and other small-party settlements. U.S. EPA also recovers costs from financially viable individuals and companies once a response action has been completed. The U.S. EPA is authorized to implement the Act in all 50 states and U.S. territories. Superfund site identification, monitoring, and response activities in states are coordinated through the various state environmental protection or waste management agencies. The National Guard utilizes the basic framework of CERCLA to conduct the Installation Restoration Program.

Air Installation Compatible Use Zone (AICUZ)

The Air Installation Compatible Use Zone (AICUZ) program (AFI 327063) is a DoD planning program designed to promote compatible land use around military airfields and has a threefold purpose: To assess aircraft noise and minimize the effects of flying on areas adjacent to installations; To prevent incompatible development in high noise and accident potential areas; and To maintain operational capability through compatible land use planning and control.

Concern over National Park overflights became a national issue with the National Parks Overflights Act of 1987. The act directed the FAA and NPS to substantially restore natural quiet at the Grand Canyon and to report to Congress on the effects of overflights throughout the national park system. In April 1996, the President signed an Executive Order designed to restore the natural quiet in National Parks. Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain restrictions were implemented in December 1996 and January 1997, respectively. In 1998, additional legislation was introduced to regulate commercial air tour operations over the National Park System. The House and Senate passed individual legislation, but the bills failed to survive a House-Senate conference.

Environmental Restoration Defense Account (ERDA)

In 1983, the Environmental Restoration Defense Account (ERDA) was established by Public Law 98-212. This Congressionally-directed fund was to be used for environmental restoration at Department of Defense (DOD) active installations and formerly used properties. The DOD designated the Army as the sole manager for environmental restoration at closed installations and formerly used properties. The Secretary of the Army assigned this mission to the Corps of Engineers (USACE) in 1984.

Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS)

Congress created the Formerly Used Defense Site (FUDS) Program in 1986, and the Corps of Engineers was tasked to investigate formerly used defense properties to determine if any contamination remains from DoD use of the site. Until then there was no way to pay for investigations of these former defense sites. Since the program began, literally thousands of sites have been identified across the country. Funding is limited, so the projects are prioritized nationally, and the most serious sites are being investigated first.

Sikes Act

The Sikes Act (as amended in 1997) requires DoD installations to prepare Integrated Natural Resource Management Plans (INRMPs). The plans assist base commanders in conserving and rehabilitating natural resources while supporting the military mission. Installations must review and update the plans every 5 years. The 1997 Amendments required installations to complete and update their plans by November 18, 2001. Installations also are required to seek the cooperation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and appropriate state fish and wildlife agencies concerning natural resource management. This is to ensure that DoD and USFWS and state agencies concur on resource management practices and to provide DoD with access to the expert knowledge of the USFWS and state agencies. Installations are required to report specific data annually.


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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:47:17 ZULU