Some habits are harder to break
It looks like the Pentagon, which expanded upon the concept of “destroying a village in order to save it” during the Viet Nam war (if you don’t remember that war, you’re in luck. The sequel is playing at an AMC Cinema Iraq multiplex near you) have decided to bring it all back home:
The Defense Department, which controls 28 million acres of land across the nation that it uses for combat exercises and weapons testing, has been moving on a variety of fronts to reduce requirements that it safeguard the environment on that land.
In Congress, the Pentagon has won exemptions in the last two years from parts of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It has sought in recent years to exempt military activities, for three years, from compliance with parts of the Clean Air Act.
Also, the Pentagon, which controls about 140 of the 1,240 toxic Superfund sites around the country, is seeking partial exemptions from two laws governing toxic waste. And two months ago, it drafted revisions to a 1996 directive built on a pledge “to display environmental security leadership within Department of Defense activities worldwide.”
It has spent more than $25 billion since 1985 on a program to clean up active and closed military bases, but at the same time has continued to generate pollution. Toxic residues like perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel, have been found in the Colorado River and in ground water in some states.
In addition, the Congressional appropriations for cleanups under the department’s environmental restoration program, which usually hew to the department’s budget requests, have been largely unchanged in recent years but slightly lower overall than in the Clinton administration, even as estimates for cleanups at closed military bases have far exceeded current spending.
The 1996 directive was produced under the Clinton administration, at a time of heightened concern over environmental issues. It was unclear when the revised draft directive might go into effect.
But the copy made available on the Web site of an environmental group made it clear that it represented a fundamentally different philosophy. Kyla Bennett, leader of the New England chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which released the directive, said the draft policy “says, ‘We’ll do whatever we have to do under the cloak of readiness and national security.’ ” Ms. Bennett added, “It’s discouraging to me that the Department of Defense uses the terrorist attacks as a cloak to excuse themselves from environmental laws.”
It’s a good thing that the rest of the administration hasn’t gotten around to using 9/11 to as a cover to….
Oh. Wait. Never mind.