Exempting Department of Defense from Federal Hazardous Waste Laws: Resource Contamination as "Range Preservation"?

Sislin, Caitlin
August 2005
Ecology Law Quarterly;2005, Vol. 32 Issue 3, p647
Academic Journal
In 2004, the Department of Defense (DOD) introduced federal legislation proposing exemptions from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, and the Clean Air Act. This proposal was the last of a three-part legislative package called the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative, through which DOD sought exemptions from several federal environmental statutes in order to ensure military readiness in the face of environmental compliance requirements. While Congress granted earlier exemptions from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Endangered Species Act, it declined to grant exemptions from the hazardous waste and clean air laws in 2004. The DOD, however, will propose these exemptions again in 2005. Public interest groups, representatives from local and state governments, scientists and community advocates raised several concerns regarding the proposed hazardous waste law exemptions, most notably that these exemptions were dangerous to the public health, redundant, and founded in exaggerated concerns. Arguably, the current statutory scheme provides DOD with sufficient flexibility to avoid liability while still ensuring unyielding protection for the environment and public health. If the exemptions were to be granted, DOD would not face liability or mitigation responsibility for munitions-based toxic contamination until there was an "imminent and substantial endangerment" to the public health; at that point, mitigating the hazardous waste and protecting the public health would present tremendous and possibly insurmountable challenges.


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