From an email I received today from John Adams of the National Resources Defense Council:
Under the cynical pretext of protecting national security, the Bush administration strong-armed the Senate Armed Services Committee into approving the most far-reaching rollback of marine mammal protection in the last 30 years. It exempts the U.S. military from obeying core provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.
Because these unprecedented exemptions are part of a “must-pass” defense bill, they were quickly approved by both the House and Senate, and President Bush is sure to sign the bill into law.
Before I tell you what this setback will mean for marine mammals, I want you to know one thing: we fought our hearts out to defeat these disastrous provisions. Our legislative staff worked day and night to get Congress the facts and win over critical swing votes. Two weeks ago, thousands of NRDC activists in the key states of Virginia, Michigan, Arizona and Maine joined the fray by flooding their senators’ offices with pro-marine mammal phone calls.
Thanks to their selfless efforts, we came awfully close to pulling off a last-minute victory. In the end, however, we just could not overcome a White House that was shamelessly — and erroneously — claiming military necessity in the midst of wartime.
What do these new exemptions mean in the real world? It will now be far easier for the U.S. military to harass and kill whales, dolphins and other marine mammals with high-intensity sonar and underwater explosives. The armed forces will no longer be limited to harming or killing a “small number” of animals.
In another ominous change, the new law allows the military to entirely exempt itself from all environmental review under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In the past, NRDC has used that process to block destructive activities like the detonation of tons of explosives in sensitive marine areas.
Finally, the military will now be allowed to destroy the habitat of endangered birds and mammals that live on 25 million acres of land under the Pentagon’s jurisdiction.
The Bush administration claims that these drastic steps are necessary because environmental laws are compromising combat readiness for the war on terror. Baloney! Even the EPA’s own administrator testified last spring that she couldn’t name a single training mission anywhere in the country that had been delayed or canceled because of environmental restrictions.