April 22, 2010
President Barack Obama
Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
Cecilia Munoz, Director of White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
Michael Block, White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
On Earth Day, April 22, 2010, we—the undersigned environmentalists, scholars, clergy and community leaders—call attention to the severe long-term impacts of preparations for war on the physical environment and, in turn, on human health.
We are extremely concerned about the environmental impacts of the proposed military expansion and build-up in the U.S. territory of Guam , noting the following points:
History of US Militarism in Guam :
Ø The people of Guam have lived under U.S. administration since 1898. Guam remains a U.S. colony, one of 16 non-self-governing territories listed by the United Nations, and represented by one non-voting delegate in the U.S. Congress. Local communities are highly constrained in their ability to influence the political process and were not consulted when the expansion plans were drawn up.
Ø For the indigenous Chamorro people, the long legacy of U.S. and Navy military control includes major land takings that started in the early 20th century, radiation exposure, poor health, and the restriction of traditional practices such as fishing.
Ø In 1954, the entire island was affected by toxic contamination following the “Bravo” hydrogen bomb test in the Marshall Islands . In the 1970s, Guam’s Cocos Island lagoon was used to wash down ships contaminated with radiation en route from the Marshall Islands where they were part of an attempted clean up. From 1968 to 1974, Guam had higher yearly rainfall measures of strontium 90 than Majuro ( Marshall Islands ).
Ø As a corollary, the incidence of cancer in Guam is high. Cancer mortality rates from 1998 to 2002 showed that nasopharyngeal cancer was 48 times higher for Chamorros than among the general U.S. population. Cervical and uterine cancer mortality rates were 3 times higher. Chamorro deaths from cancer of the mouth and pharynx, the lungs, stomach, prostate, liver, breast, and thyroid were all higher than overall U.S. rates.
Ø Andersen AFB is a continuing source of toxic contamination through dumpsites and possible leaching of chemicals into the underground aquifer beneath the base. In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency found antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead, manganese, dioxin, deteriorated ordnance and explosives, and PCBs at two dumpsites just outside the base at Urunao. Other areas have been affected by Vietnam-war era use of the defoliants Agent Orange and Agent Purple, as planes used for aerial spraying were cleaned in Guam . While there are some clean-up efforts currently underway, it has not resulted in the cumulative clean-up of the island. Rather multiple toxic sites continue to exist, thereby impacting the health status of the island's people.
Current Build-up Plans:
Ø Currently, Guam’s military significance is being redefined as part of a major realignment and restructuring of U.S. forces and operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Thirty miles long and eight miles wide, Guam houses the largest Air Force fuel supply in the United States and the largest supply of weapons in the Pacific. The military controls one-third of the island and intends for Guam to become a power projection hub.
Ø The proposed military build-up of Guam involves the transfer of 8,600 Marines currently based at Futenma Marine Air Station (Okinawa, Japan); the acquisition of 2,200 additional acres for military use, including additional live-fire ranges; and the dredging of 71 acres of vibrant coral reef in Apra Harbor to create berthing for a nuclear aircraft carrier for just 64 days a year. Also planned: a missile defense system and expansion of Andersen AFB. This proposal will increase the population of 173,456 by nearly 47% -- or nearly 80,000 people, including U.S. Marines, support staff, military contractors, family members, and construction workers.
Inadequacies and Objections to the Current Plan:
Ø The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given its worst rating to the DOD Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) regarding the proposed build-up. The EPA emphasizes the lack of a specific plan to address the wastewater treatment and water supply needs of the increased population, which will overstretch the already inadequate infrastructure and may result in "significant adverse public health impacts." Low water pressure could lead to increased exposure to water borne disease from sewage stormwater infiltration into drinking water. Also, it could result in saltwater intrusion into Guam 's aquifer. The planned expansion will result in an increase in spills of raw sewage, exposing people to raw sewage in their drinking water supply, through the shellfish they eat, and during ocean recreation. Moreover, the EPA report argues that the build-up "will result in unacceptable impacts to 71 acres of high quality coral reef ecosystem in Apra harbor " and concludes that, "These impacts are of sufficient magnitude that EPA believes the action should not proceed as proposed."
Ø Despite its inordinate length (9 volumes totaling 11,000 pages), the DEIS is vague in places, contains significant contradictions, and scarcely addresses social and cultural impacts to the island.
Ø Even though the public comment period was far too short—a mere 90 days to absorb the implications of the 11,000 page report—there has been an outpouring of pubic testimony, concern, and opposition to the build up expressed at town hall meetings, public hearings, community events, on the internet, and in media reports.
· Many public comments on the DEIS focused on unequal amenities and opportunities inside and outside the military fencelines. As proposed, the build-up plan will exacerbate the reality of two Guams: one inside and one outside the bases.
· Several Guam Senators, including Speaker Judith Won Pat, have questioned the build-up.
· Congressional Representative Bordallo and Governor Felix Camacho have greatly moderated their earlier support after seeing the detailed proposals and hearing the strength of community concern.
Ø The planned military expansion has serious implications for the Chamorro people’s right to self-determination as military-related personnel could outnumber the Chamorro population, who currently make up 37% of the total. Chamorro leaders have taken this issue to the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization and urged this committee to send representatives to Guam to conduct an assessment of the current situation on the island’s people.
We urge you to:
1) Halt the current plans for the military build up in Guam ;
2) Demand the DOD rewrite the DEIS to include socio-economic and cultural impacts and mitigation, clearly outlined environmental impacts and mitigation, address the impacts to self-determination, complete cost-benefit analysis, and federal accountability for impacts on local communities;
3) Require the DOD to clean up existing contamination and toxic sites, on and off-base, caused by military operations on Guam , before any base expansion projects are considered;
4) Limit the military’s use of land on Guam to its current “footprint”;
5) Recommend federal funding to strengthen Guam ’s inadequate infrastructure.
The White House press statement, issued mid-March 2010, emphasizing the administration’s commitment to “One Guam, Green Guam,” balancing the military’s needs with local concerns, promoting renewable energy, and reducing fuel and energy costs on the island does not address people’s core concerns. These goals cannot be achieved without addressing the inadequacies and concerns raised about the current build-up proposal.
We look forward to working with you on these matters.
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