"The Bush administration has proposed yet another list of environmental sacrifices that it believes America should make for the War on Terror.and you realize, well, no, actually it can get worse. Much, much worse.
Last year, President Bush pushed through legislation that exempts military training bases from cornerstone environmental protections mandated by the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act, in the name of 'military readiness.' Despite howls of protest from the environmental community and government officials alike -- the unprecedented, sweeping wartime request was unaccompanied by any evidence that America's military strength is at odds with environmental protection -- the Department of Defense insisted on the rollbacks and got much of what it asked for.
Now the Bush administration may be weeks from implementing more environmental exemptions for the sake of 'national security,' which critics find equally preposterous. The Department of Homeland Security has proposed a directive [PDF] that would enable a raft of agencies under its domain -- including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, and more than a dozen others -- to eschew environmental reviews and assessments of their operations, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, if agency officials feel such reviews are impinging on their efficacy. The directive, which does not require congressional approval, would also allow the agencies to conceal information they consider sensitive from a national-security standpoint.
Enviros are aghast, of course. A whole conflux of groups -- including Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon Society, and Ocean Conservancy -- have submitted exhaustive comments criticizing the proposal for its potential impact on the environment and public health. Members of the public can also submit comments on the draft directive through Aug. 16. (Fax to 202.772.9749.)
'What they've proposed is outrageous,' said Sharon Buccino, a senior attorney at NRDC, 'not just from the point of view of exploiting the issue of national security to bend the [environmental] rules, but because it inhibits Americans' democratic right to the freedom of information -- in this case, information that the American public could use to protect itself from potentially considerable health risks.'"