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From Draft NOtices, March-April 2001


The extent to which the U.S. military has to comply with environmental laws varies from statute to statute. There are generally three ways they get around compliance with these laws: direct exemption, sovereign immunity, and the Unitary Executive policy. They are exempt from many important environmental and public safety laws, such as the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and sections of the Clean Water Act, and naval nuclear reactors are not regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Even when the law does apply to military operations, regulators have no ability to assess fines, shut down polluting operations or otherwise enforce compliance with the laws that cover the military. Communities neighboring military bases have less environmental protection than other cities in the nation. Until the military is brought under complete regulation, our public health and safety, as well as our environment, will be at increased risk from military pollution.

The need for regulation clearly exists. Last September, for example, the Marines spilled over 2 million gallons of sewage into the ocean — but unlike a similar case in the City of San Diego, no fines have been assessed. The Navy’s current dredging project has violated their permit twice. In the past few years, the Navy has spilled over 15,000 gallons of oil into our coastal waters. And, because the Navy is self-regulated for nuclear activity and not required to disclose full information about the area of impact from an accident, neighboring communities do not have the full information needed to plan effective emergency plans to deal with a nuclear-reactor accident aboard naval nuclear-powered vessels.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? The Military Environmental Responsibility Act (MERA) is a bill proposed by San Diego Congressperson Bob Filner and supported by Congressperson Cynthia McKinney. MERA would remove all military exemptions from our state and federal environmental laws, bringing military operations under the same environmental regulations as the private sector.

You can help bring the military into compliance with all environmental and health and safety laws by:

  • Signing and returning the MERA endorsement form inserted in this newsletter. COMD is joining with the Peace Resource Center of San Diego and the Environmental Health Coalition in an effort to collect 1,000 endorsers by March 31 to launch the campaign. Endorsements will continue to be collected after that date.
  • Downloading and photocopying the MERA endorsement PDF form. Get your friends, family and neighbors to sign!

Writing to Congressperson Filner in support of the MERA (U.S. Congress, 2463 Rayburn Bldg., Washington, D.C. 20515). Ask your congressperson to join with Congressperson Filner in promoting the MERA.

This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (

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