Based on initial findings, the draft environmental impact statement for proposed joint military training and “live-fire” exercises in the CNMI is “woefully inadequate.”
This is according to Nicholas Yost, who heads Dentons US LLC, the independent consultant hired by the CNMI government to the review the military EIS.
Yost, who was on Capital Hill last Friday with other representatives of Dentons and Environmental Science Associates, said their initial review also showed that the documents do not conform with the “basic principles of the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA” and that the documents “precludes intelligent review.”
Yost said the Navy has alternatives and that there are other places, which would be more appropriate.
Dentons has started work on the draft EIS, although it has already conducted an initial review even before it was officially hired by the CNMI government.
As the independent consultant, Dentons is expected to deliver an executive summary, and give legal advice to the CNMI government on the draft EIS.
Jim Keany, a senior program manager at ESA, which is the partner firm of Dentons on the EIS review, added that the draft EIS is “too huge” and one of the goals is to “distill it down” for the public to understand.
Related to this, Keany said Dentons and ESA plan to conduct public hearings on the draft EIS which will hopefully provide “clarity.”
He said the public hearings will focus on “pointing out issues” on the draft EIS, unlike the military-led hearings which seem to be too “clouded” and “too confusing” on environmental issues.
Yost added that U.S. military conducted the hearings simply because it is a basic requirement by the NEPA. The hearings were also simply not enough, and only serve the purpose of the military to relay what it wants to relay.
This is the main difference between the military-led hearing and what Dentons wants to do, he said.
What the new hearings hope to accomplish is to inform the CNMI departments and public on what the real issues and in the process generate more informed comments.
Keany also said the military “was not too responsive to the public comments.”
A series of public hearings scheduled on July 15, 16, and 17, will be conducted by Dentons and the CNMI government.
Dentons was chosen as consultant for the draft EIS review about two weeks ago. The contract for the review was worth $235,000 and is federally funded.
Following the extension of the comment period, the new deadline for submission of comments on the CJMT draft EIS is Aug. 4, 2015.
Dentons is a global law firm based in San Francisco and is widely recognized as the largest law firm in the U.S. The firm’s environmental law practice features more than 80 specialists such as environmental lawyers, policy advisors, and cultural resource specialists.
ESA has reviewed more than 5,000 environmental documents for compliance with NEPA, the federal Clean Water Act, the federal Endangered Species Act, and other state and federal environmental quality regulations.