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Permission To Contaminate, Sir!

The Pentagon is resisting the EPA’s orders to clean up its contaminated military sites, the Washington Post reports today. The danger? The Defense Department owns more Superfund sites than anyone else, as well as more than 25,000 contaminated sites nationwide, where the department's toxic legacy could pose serious risks to public health and the environment.


While the Post calls its recent pushback against the EPA’s regulatory efforts “unprecedented,” the Pentagon has been trying to grant itself the license to pollute and contaminate during the entirety of the Bush administration. The Pentagon sought sweeping exemptions from the Clean Air Act, tried to exclude explosives and munitions from being classified as hazardous waste, and attempted to deny compensation to state authorities when DOD sites contaminate public resources. Defense officials have argued that it needs such exemptions to control costs and enable the military “train as we fight,” and the EPA’s gutted budget and declawed regulatory capabilities have sapped its ability to push back.

The Pentagon may well be trying to go green to save on fuel costs, experimenting with alternative-energy projects like these nifty wind turbines at Guantanamo Bay. But when it comes to toxic missteps that have only human costs, it continues to shirk from its responsibility to clean up after itself. In a recent Senate committee hearing on Perchlorate--a substance in rocket fuel that has leaked from military bases nationwide--Defense officials were accused of trying to bury information about the chemical’s toxic properties to the endocrine system. Why? Well, according to the National Resource Defense Council, the substance’s widespread release has contaminated the drinking water of an estimated 20 million people. Without adequate regulation, such culprits appear to know few bounds.

--Suzy Khimm