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Posted: 5/21/2003 3:26:10 PM EDT
Notice which "public servant" from NJ is involved... [pissed] Everytime I turn around this jerk is involved in some dumbass thing. [url]http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/archive/2003/05/21/national1806EDT0787.DTL[/url] Senate limits military exemptions to environmental law KEN GUGGENHEIM, Associated Press Writer Wednesday, May 21, 2003 (05-21) 15:06 PDT WASHINGTON (AP) -- Over Bush administration objections, the Senate voted Wednesday to sharply limit the military's exemptions from environmental laws that the Pentagon says impede training exercises. The vote came as the Senate neared completion of a bill authorizing $400.5 billion in 2004 defense programs. A vote on the overall bill was expected late Wednesday or Thursday. The House began considering its own defense bill Wednesday. The change in environmental laws was a victory for Democrats after a set back on attempts to block research of two types of nuclear weapons. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the environmental vote was a mistake and that he hoped it would be changed when House-Senate negotiators work out a final a version of the bill. Lawmakers will "better understand how critically important it is for the men and women in uniform to have the kinds of training that will enable them to effectively defend our country," Rumsfeld told reporters after meeting with lawmakers in the Capitol. The Senate bill originally would have provided the military with exemptions from Endangered Species Act requirements intended to protect rare plants or animals. It was one of several environmental exemptions sought by the Pentagon. Under an amendment by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., the military would have to develop and fund plans to protect the endangered species on its land. It passed 51-48 with four Republicans voting with Democrats. "This issue is really about balancing national security with our environmental security -- and the Pentagon has shown in the past that we can do it," Lautenberg said. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., rejected Democratic arguments that environmental laws haven't hurt training. He said that in Camp Pendleton, Calif., Marines can train on only 200 yards of 17 miles of shoreline. "We are not enjoying the state of readiness that we should be, that our troops are entitled to," he said. The House version of the bill goes further than the original Senate bill in environmental exemptions, modifying the Marine Mammal Protection Act. House debate also focused on the environmental issue: the House approved by 252-175 an amendment by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the Armed Services Committee chairman, specifying that any changes to the Endangered Species Act would apply only to the Pentagon and not to other agencies. Hunter said his proposal was "eminently reasonable," protecting both the environment and the country's most important "endangered species" -- the 19-year-old Marine who needs training for war. But Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said Hunter's exemptions for the military were "overbroad and unjustified." House Democrats will also challenge provisions to lift a research and development ban on low-yield nuclear weapons and continue research on a Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator capable of destroying weapons buried deep underground. Senate Democrats were defeated in attempts to keep the low-yield nuclear weapons ban, though the Senate approved an amendment by Armed Services Chairman John Warner, R-Va., that would require the president to seek congressional authorization before developing and producing the weapons. Low-yield weapons have a blast equivalent to less than five kilotons, about a third as large as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War II. Senate Democrats also failed to cut off funding for the study of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, which might be capable of destroying weapons buried in deep underground bunkers. Rumsfeld has said the Bush administration wants to only study the weapon and has no plans to develop them. But Democrats are skeptical. "I don't believe its just a study," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. "I believe it's an announced attempt to generate a new generation of nuclear weapons." The House bill also would restrict the Pentagon's ability to carry out the next round of base closings, scheduled for 2005. On Wednesday, the Bush administration warned it might veto the defense bill if the final version changes base closing plans. No such provision is in the Senate bill.
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