The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is being manipulated by the Military-Industrial Complex. The 2013 military budget will cost the taxpayers more than $630B. The Air Force must stop playing games with their Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and think about the U. S. communities they are impacting with excessively loud and unsafe aircraft.
Here in Tucson when thousands of citizens complained to Washington about the fact that Davis-Monthan AFB's Operation Snowbird (OSB) combat training program had not had an environmental study of the impact on the community since 1978, what did the Air Force do? They came up with an EA proposal for a "new" Operation Snowbird program that added the F-22 while pilots were refusing to fly them due to safety concerns. Since the late 1990s, the Air Force had quietly introduced F-15s, F-18s, Harriers, and Tornados to fly over the densely-populated city of Tucson. All with no recent environmental study. In the proposal, instead of going back to the last OSB EA in 1978, they used the 2002 Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) EA as their baseline claiming that the Operation Snowbird aircraft had been analyzed in that 300-page environmental study. The problem is that neither Operation Snowbird nor Operation Snowbird aircraft are even mentioned in the CSAR document.
The Air Force is also doing an EIS for basing the F-35 at the Air Guard Station at Tucson International Airport (TIA). The proposal clearly stated that the F-35 training will have a disproportionate negative impact on a low-income and mostly Hispanic minority population, yet none of the materials or announcements relating to the EIS was in the Spanish language. The public hearings were held at locations distant from the 8,500 people who would be living in the "incompatible with residential use" zone should the F-35s be assigned to TIA. There is no mention of how the negative impact from the F35 would be mitigated or who would pay for it.
Federal funding needs to be increased to the Council on Environmental Quality, the agency that oversees NEPA, in order to put some teeth in the law. The Air Force knows how to structure their environmental studies so that they get the results they want with little cost and the unsuspecting public doesn't have a clue as to what's going on.
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