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Exemptions from Environmental Law for the Department of Defense: Background and Issues for Congress

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Publication Date: December 2006

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RS22149

Topic: Environment (Environmental policy)
Law and ethics (Environmental law)


Several environmental statutes contain national security exemptions, which the Department of Defense (DOD) can obtain on a case-by-case basis. Since FY2003, DOD has sought broader exemptions that it argues are needed to preserve training capabilities and ensure military readiness. There has been disagreement in Congress over the need for broader exemptions in the absence of data on the overall impact of environmental requirements on training and readiness. There also has been disagreement over the potential impacts of broader exemptions on environmental quality. After considerable debate, the 107th Congress enacted an exemption from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the 108th Congress enacted exemptions from the Marine Mammal Protection Act and certain parts of the Endangered Species Act. These exemptions were contentious to some because of concerns about the weakening of protections for animals and plants. As in recent years, DOD again requested exemptions from the Clean Air Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), as part of its FY2007 defense authorization proposal. Concerns within Congress about human health and environmental risks motivated opposition to these exemptions. In response, the 109th Congress did not include these exemptions in FY2007 defense authorization legislation (H.R. 5122) or FY2007 defense appropriations legislation (H.R. 5631 and H.R. 5385).