|From:||Lenny Siegel <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
|Date:||Wed, 19 Oct 1994 13:45:09 -0700 (PDT)|
EPA DESCRIBES MUNITIONS RULE OPTIONS When Congress passed the Federal Facilities Compliance Act in 1992, it rejected the Defense Department's request to exempt military munitions from hazardous waste laws. Instead, it directed EPA, in consultation with the Department of Defense (DOD) and state representatives, to promulgate a rule determining when munitions become a hazardous waste. Soon after passage of the Act, spokespersons for the Military Toxics Project, which represents community members near many military munitions sites, asked that its members be included in discussions BEFORE the issuance of a draft rule. This resulted in a landmark meeting, in September, 1993, in which Military Toxics Project activists, state, EPA, and military representatives exchanged views on the issues to be addressed in the rule. Though most participants thought the meeting productive, EPA did not send public participants any follow-up material. Only after the Military Toxics Project and some of its constituent groups filed suit to speed up the rulemaking process did EPA re-open the process. In August, 1994, exactly eleven months after the face-to-face meeting, EPA issued four Issues Papers on the Military Munitions Rules. Demilitarization of Stockpile Munitions EPA defines the question: "At what point should 'unserviceable" munitions in the military stockpile become regulated as RCRA hazardous waste? How should hazardous waste regulations apply to these 'waste' munitions?" Historically, the Defense Department has considered that such munitions become wastes only at the point of disposal. However, under a new DOD Interim Guidance, munitions are determined to be a waste after DOD has ruled out future use, sales, reprocessing, etc. Still, citizens groups tend to prefer a stronger position, which declares munitions to be wastes when they can no longer be used for their intended purpose OR when Congress or the executive branch formally declares - in a treaty or other international agreement, for example - an intention to demilitarize. Excess Propellant Bags The issue: When does excess propellant become a RCRA solid/hazardous waste? Combat artillery units at most locations routinely burn excess propellant bags, emitting toxic smoke, but the military claims these actions are exempt from regulation because burning is part of training. At the Massachusetts Military Reservation, however, local activists forced a halt to such burning after an epidemiological study showed a link with cancer. EPA is currently considering four regulatory options, ranging from defining all excess propellant as waste to accepting the military claim of a training exemption. While treating the bags as waste does not automatically force the halt of open burning, it could sharply curtail the practice. Management of Ranges Since application of hazardous waste laws to impact (artillery or bombing) ranges could force immense cleanup operations to be undertaken, this is potentially the most costly consequence of new regulations. EPA asks: "To what extent should hazardous waste regulations apply to operation, closure, and cleanup of military firing ranges, inactive ranges, and inactive ranges on formerly used defense sites?" Historically, the military has argued that ranges are not solid waste management units, and it has chosen to clear or otherwise remediate them (or not) without regard to any formal external regulatory authority. EPA's current position, recently elucidated at Congressional hearings at Ford Ord, California (May 2, 1994), is that firing ranges have been "abandoned" at a minimum when the property is transferred out of DOD control - even to another Federal agency. Furthermore, EPA now considers unexploded munitions in abandoned ranges subject to Superfund cleanup authorities. These policies are a major step forward, but the Army - at Fort Ord, for example - still argues that Superfund authorities do not apply before transfer occurs. EPA also states that it cannot declare land uncontaminated, for the purpose of transfer to a non-Federal entity, if its contains unexploded ordnance. Citizen groups are not satisfied. They want all unexploded munitions, as well as explosive waste, considered hazardous wastes - once they hit the ground. Though this position is based on real threats to public and environmental health and safety, it makes the military particularly nervous. It would give outsiders more control over one of the military's principal missions: combat training. The Issues paper also offers options that would force the military to locate and retrieve unexploded munitions that have missed their targets - that is, landed off range. Emergency Responses EPA asks: "What should be requireed under RCRA for emergency responses involving military munitions and explosives?" Military emergency teams have expressed concern that environmental regulation would restrict their ability to respond to bomb scares. Though there are minor issues here regarding the definition of emergency and rules for notification, none of the parties wants to undermine the ability of these teams to respond immediately and effectively to real explosive threats. All of the parties, including the Military Toxics Project, are providing EPA with comments on the Issues Papers. Once a proposed rule is issued, there will be another, more formal public comment period. Given the wide gap on many of these issues between the operational military and the people who live near its impact ranges, one can expect a major political battle to erupt over some of EPA's proposals, no matter which side EPA takes.
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