Pentagon asks Congress for exemptions from environmental laws, again

For the fourth time in as many years, the Defense Department has appealed to Congress for exemptions from major environmental laws — this time it’s air and hazardous-waste laws, as part of the 2006 defense authorization bill. In congressional testimony last year, a senior Pentagon official could cite no actual problems reported by base commanders that had resulted from having to comply with environmental laws. But still! “The [Defense] department has experienced several close calls where the relocation of military readiness activities could have been stymied by the conformity requirements of the Clean Air Act,” said a Pentagon spokesflack. This talk of “close calls” and “could have” does not impress opponents of the exemptions — a coalition of green groups, Democrats, and families in and around military bases whose health has been affected by air and groundwater pollution. They claim the military, widely regarded as one of the country’s worst polluters, has all the flexibility it needs under current laws. The U.S. EPA lists more than 130 Superfund sites on military bases.