Defense Department One Step Closer to Rolling Back Environmental Protections

House Committee Passes Bill that Exempts Pentagon from Federal Environmental Laws

WASHINGTON (May 1, 2002) -- The House Armed Services Committee today reported out a bill that undermines the nation's environmental protections. Contained in the FY03 Defense Authorization legislation are provisions that would exempt the Defense Department from laws protecting America's wildlife, wilderness and other natural resources.

Although Rep. Jim Hansen (R-Utah) declined to offer an amendment that would have threatened the health of marine mammals, other amendments to the bill would roll back wilderness protection in Utah and allow the Defense Department to override the Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Granting the agency a blanket waiver from environmental compliance would cause irreparable harm to hundreds of federally listed threatened and endangered plants and animals across the country.

"National security does not require placing the Defense Department above the law," said Alys Campaigne, NRDC's legislative director. "Providing the agency with sweeping new exemptions will endanger wildlife on over 25 million acres of public lands."

Now that the bill has cleared the committee, the full House is expected to vote on the measure next week. Tomorrow NRDC and other environmental groups will participate in a press conference with House members who oppose the Defense Department's effort to ignore environmental laws. That event will take place at 1 p.m. in 2218 Rayburn House Office Building.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.