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Senators Want A More Environmentally Friendly DoD (Good Luck!)

If the people defending the country are poisoning its wells, who needs enemies?

The Washington Post reported Monday that the Defense Dept. is refusing its legal obligation to sign toxic cleanup agreements surrounding 12 Pentagon-run Superfund sites. The DOD is also fighting Environmental Protection Agency orders to clean up military bases in Maryland, Florida and New Jersey, where EPA says the pollutants pose an “imminent and substantial” danger to public health, the Post reported.

Reacting to the report, several Democratic senators called yesterday on DOD Secretary Robert Gates to tighten his ship. Sens. Robert Menendez (N.J.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ben Cardin (Md.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.) accused DOD of nothing less than threatening American lives. From their June 30 letter:

The EPA has found that pollutants “which present an imminent and substantial danger to the public health or welfare” have been released or are about to be released. For instance, at McGuire AFC, the Department of Defense (DOD) has found toxins including PCBs, jet fuel, pesticides, volatile compounds and TCE. TCE, in particular, is a carcinogen known for seeping into drinking water. Investigations at the Fort George C. Meade site revealed contaminants including solvents, pesticides, PCBs, pesticides, waste fuels and waste oils as well as unexploded ordnance.

[snip]

The Department of Defense appears to be refusing to recognize the law, and has denied the EPA’s authority by refusing to sign the final orders. According to reports, you are going so far as to ask the Department of Justice to challenge the EPA and the Office of Management and Budget to intervene. The intent of the law and of Congress is clear: the EPA has authority over the DOD in cleanup disputes.

That’s a start, but you’d think that if the federal government is actively poisoning U.S. citizens, there might be a bit more urgency in reversing course. Instead, the senators write: “This is unacceptable and we urge you to rethink your strategy.”

That silence you hear is the Pentagon not rethinking its strategy.

In fact, in another Post story running today, Pentagon spokesman Chris Isleib lays down a remarkable claim:

No entity in the world, government or private sector, has spent more money — or more effort — than the Defense Department has on environmental cleanup, cleanup research, cleanup assessment, technology to conduct cleanup, cleanup operations and cleanup follow-up monitoring.

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