DoD Submits Environmental Training Changes to Congress
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 6, 2004 The Defense Department will try for a third time to get three provisions of the DoD Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative passed by Congress.
DoD officials submitted to congressional committees proposed legislation that will clarify the intent of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The department also is asking Congress to extend the allowable time to incorporate new military activities into Clean Air Act state plans.
Congress passed five other portions of the initiative as part of the fiscal 2004 National Defense Authorization Act.
"It's just as important to pass these initiatives today as it was two years ago," said Ray DuBois, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment.
DoD's deputy general counsel for environment and installations, Ben Cohen, said the time that has passed since the proposals were first introduced has helped focus the legislation. He said the proposals are narrowly aimed at allowing DoD to improve military readiness. He said the proposals are limited to active operational ranges.
This authority is needed to ensure the United States continues to field the best military in the world, said Paul Mayberry, deputy undersecretary for readiness. "The U.S. military is the best in the world because we train more often, we train to a higher standard and we train in a realistic setting," Mayberry said.
The legislative proposals would clarify what Congress meant when it passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. It would preclude people from using the acts to shut down munitions training and testing.
The department is not asking for wholesale exemptions from environmental regulations, but rather is seeking to codify very specific regulatory policies that have applied to military training activities on operational ranges, Cohen said.
At heart, the changes ensure that military munitions, fired and used correctly in training, are not solid wastes nor "releases" subject to regulation under environmental laws, Cohen said.
Dubois said he won't try to predict what Congress will do with the proposal, but he said the department is willing to work with whatever committee Congress deems appropriate for it.