Coalition to file ESA suit against Bangor
June 10, 2008 · Updated 5:53 PM
"BANGOR - Plans to upgrade nuclear weapons at Naval Subase Bangor ran into familiar but turbulent waters last week when a 60-day notice was filed claiming that the renovation of the base for the Trident II D-5 missile upgrade violates the Endangered Species Act. The March 8 notice, which is required under the ESA prior to filing a citizen's suit in federal court, was sent to commanding officers at the Subase as well as the Acting Secretary of the Navy, Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Interior in Washington, D.C. A coalition of three peace and three environmental organizations, including Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action of Poulsbo, Environmental Council, Waste Action Project, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Peace Action of Washington and private individuals Mary Gleysteen and Glen Milner plans to take legal action in two months. We are fully intending to file the suit on day 61, executive director of Waste Action Project Greg Wingard promised Monday. The coalition has hired Greg Mann, a Seattle environmental attorney with Bricklin and Gendler, LLP, to represent it in the case. According to Mann, the Navy has a duty to disclose the full impacts of its Trident D-5 missile program and should take any action necessary to reduce or eliminate threats to local salmon and the Puget Sound environment. With stricter county, state and federal regulations now protecting Hood Canal Chum and Puget Sound Chinook, the group was quick to point out that every agency and individual should be held equally accountable for their actions. The recent listing of various Puget Sound salmon stocks as threatened species has impacted virtually all activities taking place near valuable salmon habitat, Wingard explained. It borders on the absurd that common, everyday citizens are being required to modify their activities in order to assist the protection and recovery of salmon, yet the Navy moves ahead with its activities without consultation or environmental review. Milner, who often works in conjunction with Ground Zero, agreed. Everyone else has got to comply with the ESA - the Navy should do this as well, he said, noting that a similar threat of a lawsuit actually played a role in halting the D-5 upgrades in 1990. Even then, Milner explained, the safety of the new missiles was questionable. What they discovered in the early-90s was that they're not as safe as they thought they were, that this is a new danger and a new environmental concern, he remarked. I'm one of the people who was involved in lawsuit in 1990. The only reason we didn't file then was they said, 'Never mind' (about the D-5 program). In 1989, the Navy first proposed modifying and upgrading facilities at Bangor in order to replace existing Trident C-4 missiles on Pacific Fleet submarines with the more potent D-5 missiles. That August, it prepared an Environmental Assessment under the National Environmental Protection Act in an attempt to examine the D-5 upgrade. According to factual background listed in the notice, The 1989 EA did not discuss or analyze the probable impacts associated with handling of the D-5 missiles. A year later, the notice continues, the Navy suspended the program and the actions identified in the EA were not taken. Following the postponement, the House Committee on Armed Services Panel on Nuclear Weapons Safety issued a report which indicated that there was a greater risk for unintended detonation than previously thought. The report, completed by a three-scientist group, made specific mention of potential problems with the W88 warheads, used in D-5 missiles. The U.S. Navy last year renewed its plans to upgrade the missiles at Subase Bangor but, according to the notice, did so without consulting federal environmental policy officials on the possible impact of the proposal. The potential impact includes an accidental detonation or explosion of a Trident D-5 or C-4 missile from accidental or intentional mishandling during the transportation, storage, handling, loading or unloading processes. It also pertains to construction activities required to implement the D-5 upgrade. The coalition will commence with its suit unless the Navy: * Initiates consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service about the upgrade. * Initiates a review under the ESA concerning possible impacts of the D-5 program at Bangor. * Halts all activities involved with the D-5 missile upgrade at the Subase. What we're saying is that you have you to go through and do a re-analysis of this, Milner explained. They haven't done this analysis - they haven't even considered it. They have to turn out a document and they have to give us something to look at. Bangor Subase was contacted Tuesday morning but according to Paul Taylor, public affairs officer, the chain-of-command involved in the process could take quite a bit of time in terms of responding to the Herald's questions about the 60-day notice. "