WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Ind-MP) argued for more money for the U.S. military to clean up after itself, during House debate on the fiscal 2016 Defense appropriation yesterday.
There are 24 formerly used defense sites, FUDS, in the Northern Mariana Islands and 5,000 nationwide, in every state and territory. Sablan wants funding kept at $250 million, the same amount appropriated for fiscal 2015.
Sablan used rusting fuel tanks in the village of Tanapag, as an example of the mess the military has left behind “leaking oil into the ground since Harry Truman was President.
“And, everyday,” Sablan said, “kids walking by to school, fishermen in the lagoon just a few feet away, families living with the smell of oil in their homes.”
As important as cleaning up the formerly used defense sites is for the environment and public health, the congressman noted, it is also important to the credibility of the U.S. military.
“In the Northern Marianas, today, the Defense Department wants to expand training activities—using live-fire, running pipelines, building more fuel tanks—doing the very things we know contaminate the environment and threaten public health.
“And the people I represent are saying ‘no’ to this expanded military activity.
“Restoring FUDS funding will not change anyone’s mind about the military’s proposed build up in my district,” Sablan said.
“But, if the people I represent see Congress cutting funding for FUDS,” he added, “then the military’s promise [to clean up after itself on Tinian and Pagan] has no credibility at all.”
President Obama included $204 million in his fiscal 2016 budget for the FUDS program. The House Appropriations Committee added $25 million to that amount in its bill, H.R. 2635.
“It is not enough,” Sablan argued. “We have 5,000 sites already identified for clean up nationwide and another 10,000 on the list of potentially contaminated areas.
“The Army Corps of Engineers estimates total clean up costs of $14 billion. So at $250 million a year, we will still be having this same discussion 50 years from now.
“We have to do better.” (Office of CNMI Delegate)