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Wednesday, February 3, 2010
U.S. Navy Neglected Federal Law And Executive Orders Regarding Vieques Resulting In Toxic Waste
By H. Nelson Goodson
February 3, 2010
Washington D.C. - In 1999, former Resident Commissioner to the U.S. Congress Carlos Romero-Barceló from Puerto Rico testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services. He was a non-voting member of Congress (Commonwealth voters elect a resident commissioner, who has a voice but no vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. Puerto Ricans became U.S. Citizens in 1917 and Puerto Rico became a Commonwealth in 1952).
Barceló in a compelling testimony, told the committee that for 20 years the U.S. Navy had ignored all directives by changing the weapons training site to Vieques without legal authority when it was ordered by former President Richard Nixon to stop the training at Culebra. Culebra is another Municipality in Puerto Rico, the Navy was first using Culebra as a target site to train the Alantic Fleet.
Barceló quoted a declassified memo from former National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger dated June 22, 1974, advising Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense that the weapons training activities on Culebra would be terminated by July 1, 1975, as determined by President Nixon.
Kissinger wrote, "The Secretary of Defense should consider and select alternatives sites for the weapons range activities. In doing so, he should take into account relevant considerations of international law, and in particular, U.S. objectives in the Law of the Sea negotiations.
The selection of the new site, if it is in Puerto Rico, will be contingent on its being accepted to the Commonwealth and the Secretary of Defense should so inform the Governor of Puerto Rico."
Barceló testified that when he took office as Governor of Puerto Rico in 1977, that no legal documents, memos or any records were ever found that the Secretary of Defense followed Kissinger's advised. That same year, he filed federal legal action in U.S. District Court against the Navy (J. William Middendorf, II, Secretary of the Navy served between April 8, 1974 to Jan. 20, 1977) and the Department of Defense for shifting all of its operations to Vieques when military maneuvers and operations in Culebra stopped in 1975. Barceló wanted to stop both the Navy and the Department of Defense from using Vieques as a weapons training site, citing federal and Puerto Rico statues, executive orders, and constitutional provisions.
On September 19, 1979, U.S. District Judge Juan R. Torruella issued his decision finding that the Department of the Navy in technical violation of three provisions. In violation of the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to file and environment impact statement; Presidential Executive Order 11593 by failing to nominate historical sites to the Keeper of the National Register; and the Clean Water Act, by failing to file for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Each violation was upheld in an Appeals Court.
After the court ruling, Puerto Rico and the Navy signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in September of 1983. Contrary to the standards and goals that were agreed too, the Navy escalated and expanded the range of operations in Vieques after the mid-1980's.
Later. the Navy admitted to violating the MOU and also admitted to using hazardous and toxic weapons including napalm, depleted uranium bullets, and cluster bombs, that were banned for use near civilian populations. Resulting in gross violation of both the terms and spirit of the MOU, testified Barceló.
As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency denied a permit for discharged of pollutants coming from ordances and in addition, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Desease Registery within the Department of Health Services confirmed, their intitial investigation revealed health threat to the population of Vieques citing lower life expectancy, higher mental and emotional problems amongst children, and higher incidence of cancer than anywhere else in Puerto Rico, Barceló testified.
Judge Torruella included a statement that the future of the Navy's manuevers in Vieques had been political instead of environmental. Four years after Barceló's testimony, the Navy left Vieques in 2003.
For Barceló's complete 9 page testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Sevices in 1999, click on Internet link:
Related article: Federal judge in Puerto Rico to decide case within months; over 7 thousand plaintiff's claim illness due to Navy Toxins http://bit.ly/b9lpRi
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