Hazards of living near military jets: some numbers

VA Beach F-18 crash

March 24, 2018 ~ Think it can’t happen here? Let the numbers do the talking. Above is a photo of a Navy F-18, same airframe as the EA-18G “Growler,” that crashed into an apartment building in Virginia Beach in 2012.The number of crashes of this airframe since December 2016 alone has been ten. The aircraft pictured suffered dual engine failures shortly after takeoff, and the two pilots managed to eject after avoiding a school. Astonishingly, there were no fatalities. Dozens of apartments were destroyed. The entire complex was eventually demolished “for a number of compelling reasons” that were never disclosed, but a look at the photo below, with the grounds and structure covered in toxic firefighting foam, the same as what poisoned Whidbey Island’s main aquifer, may give a clue. Some people had lived there for 18 years. Compensation for victims was $2,300 for individuals and went higher for families.

With as many as 35,500 touch-and-go operations coming on an unimproved WW2-era runway in a residential neighborhood that is far too short for safety, the risk of crashes with loss of civilian life has soared. Like most Americans, we hate to see and are saddened by, injury or loss of life to our men and women in uniform. But to continue to risk the lives of thousands of civilians where they live and work for the sake of convenience, when safer alternatives exist elsewhere, is to imply that those civilian lives are expendable. That is not a statement the Navy we used to know would have made.

The following is a Harper’s Index-style list about noise and air crash risks.

Apartment complex in VA Beach after F 18 crash

Number of Navy pilots critically injured after a December 16, 2016 Growler canopy explosion before takeoff at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island: 2

Temperature reached in a Growler cockpit on January 29, 2018, after mechanical malfunction caused icing and forced injured pilots to “fly blind” using a smart watch for navigation: minus 30 degrees.

Average number of “physiological episodes” of oxygen deprivation due to mechanical malfunction experienced by Navy pilots since May 2010: more than one every six days, or 461.

Percentage of these airframes affected by oxygen deprivation and cabin decompression issues: 100%.  Note: military personnel have been pointing out these defects for years; the causes remain elusive.

Number of feet over residential homes that Navy Growler jets fly at Whidbey Island’s OLF (Outlying Landing Field) Coupeville while practicing touch-and-go landing: 200-300′.

Length of runway recommended: 8,800 feet.

Length of WW2-era OLF runway: 5,400 feet.

Number of feet too short OLF Coupeville is for safety: at least 3,000.

Total number of all other Navy runways shorter than OLF Coupeville: 0.

Number of schools and hospitals sited within a mile of runway’s end: 3.

Number of schools within 1 mile of touch-and-go flight paths: 4.

Number of private homes in newly expanded crash zone: about 400.

Where Growler mission was originally based: Lemoore, CA.

Length each of 2 runways at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California: 13,500′.

Number of acres of unoccupied buffer recommended for naval airfields:  30,000-50,000.

Number of acres of buffer at NAS Lemoore: 29,784.

Number of acres of buffer around OLF Coupeville: 800.

Number of Growler mechanical failures at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in the last year, not counting incidents at other bases, that resulted in emergencies: at least 2.

Number of Growler flights out of the 47% overall increase at Naval Air Station Whidbey island to 130,000 flights of all aircraft: 73,900.

Number of acres of bird-rich marsh found under the flight path for OLF Coupeville: More than 700.

Number of species of birds in Coupeville marsh large enough to create serious collision hazard: 16.

Number of proposed low-altitude Growler flights over Coupeville marsh to OLF: 35,500

Average number of bird strikes to military aircraft per year (nationally, tracked by Air Force): between 300 and 400.

Number of bird strikes reported by Navy between 1981 and 2011: 16,000.

Percentage of bird strikes that involve fighters and trainers: 57%

Time of year most bird strikes occur: between July and October.

Causes of most crashes: varies, mostly mechanical failure.

Most recent crash of this F/EA-18 airframe: March 15, 2018 in Key West, Florida (below).

F-18 crash off Key West FL

Loudness measured by sound meters outside homes near OLF runway: at least 130 decibels (dB).

Inside homes: 101.8 dB.

Pain threshold: 110-120 dB. (110 dB is the equivalent of an auto horn at one meter. 120 dB is 32 times louder than a vacuum cleaner.)

Exposure time at 130 dB before permanent hearing loss: less than 1 second.

Exposure time at 101 dB before permanent hearing loss: between 7.5 and 15 minutes.

Number of hours per OLF exercise that jets fly 200-300′ over roofs: 4 to 8.

Number of years farms and many homes near OLF predate arrival of Growlers: Decades to more than a century.

Percent quieter Navy claimed Growlers are than the old Prowlers they replaced: 30.

Noise level intensity for every 10 dB increase: Doubled.

Decibels to eardrum rupture: 150.

Noise level of Growler at takeoff: 150 dB.

Welding email - 500 - 100 foot zone

Altitude Navy says FAA allows it to fly over rural areas anywhere: 500′.

Over towns: 1,000′.

Degree FAA says it is allowed to regulate military aircraft operations: Zero.

Loudness of a Growler at 1,000′ altitude (Navy figure): 113 dB.

Sound of two military jets drowning out the roar of a rushing mountain stream: Listen.

Sight of Growlers flying low over mountain passes: Watch.

Number of feet Growlers from Whidbey recently flew repeatedly over the heads of 20 people, all families with children, who were picnicking at Gold Creek Pond at Snoqualmie Pass: 100.

Number of terrified, shaken picnickers: 20.

Top industry threatened by Navy expansion: Tourism and agriculture (tied).

Exposure time at 113 dB before permanent hearing loss: about 45 seconds.

Current noise-related health costs to Island County residents: $2.8 million.

Expected health costs when Growler operations increase as planned: $3.3 million.

Property value decline so far: $9.8 million.

Correlation between noise annoyance and disturbed sleep: High.

Correlation between noise annoyance and cardiovascular effects: High.

Number of Navy analyses in Draft EIS, on Growler noise more than 6 miles from the runways: 0.

Number of days of quiet Navy averages with jet noise to arrive at 65 dB as the level it says communities are exposed to: 365.

Number of times Navy found “significant impacts” in all EIS (Environmental Impact Statements) or EA (Environmental Assessments) in past 10 years: Zero.

Potential military interest in Quillayute Airport near Forks, Washington: High.

Military interest in conducting helicopter training operations over communities around the Olympic Peninsula: High.

Accident rate for training operations in helicopters compared with fixed-wing aircraft: Twice as high.

Number of cities in in the most densely populated part of Idaho about to be designated as “F-15 Urban Warfare CAS (Close Air Support) Training Range“: 9.

Number of 3-hour low-level “gunfighter” sorties over Idaho cities like Boise, in support of stealth urban warfare personnel using “eye-safe lasers” and other devices: 4,056.

Number of these operations per year expected to cause potential sleep interruptions in Idaho residents: 2,074.

Where else military jets are newly encroaching on civilian areas: Vermont. (there are other areas, too.)

What can you do? 

DOCUMENT jet noise incidents. Keep a log book.

Call the Navy’s Noise Complaint Hotline:  360-257-6665.

Email: comments.NASWI@navy.mil

Keep writing to elected officials, even when it doesn’t seem productive to do so. Contact information: http://westcoastactionalliance.org/location

It’s an election year. Urge candidates running for office to take the Candidate Peace Pledge.

Crash landing at Lemoore

crash landing at Lemoore.

 

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How to make official comments on Navy combat training in our neighborhoods

Special Ops training Map

UPDATE MARCH 24, 2018 ~ Comment period is closed. Thank you to everyone who made the effort. For what it’s worth, here are the joint comments of the West Coast Action Alliance and the Olympic Forest Coalition.

February 15, 2018 ~ Here is how to comment on the Navy’s proposed Special Operations (combat) training in our communities. COMMENT PERIOD HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO MARCH 23, 2018

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As a result of the public uproar about this training, all four members of our congressional delegation (Kilmer, Larsen, Cantwell and Murray) and Governor Inslee wrote a letter to the Navy asking for a 30-day extension of the comment period.

To view a PDF of a slide show obtained from the Navy via a whistleblower, showing what combat training actions will be done at 68 sites along 265 miles of shoreline in western Puget Sound, click here. It’s 17 mb, so give it time to load.

Send snail mail to: Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest Attention: Project Manager, EV21.AW 1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203 Silverdale, WA 98315-1101

Or email to: nwnepa@navy.mil    Subject line for email should be: Comments, Naval Special Operations EA–EV21.AW

To download the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) to read for yourself, click here.

To download the comments we have provided below in Word, click here. For PDF, click here. Or you can simply copy and paste these comments into the body of your email, which should then include the hyperlinks.

These comments are intended to give you a better understanding of what we are all facing, and for you to use or adapt as you see fit:

 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Navy’s “Special Operations Training in Western Washington” Environmental Assessment (EA). Thank you also for extending the original comment period by 30 days.  The affected public did not previously have enough time to understand and evaluate potential impacts of the Navy’s proposed action. My main request is that the Navy cease and desist with this training in state parks and on private property.

I object to the Navy’s use of private lands and state parks for covert combat training for the following 10 reasons:

1. Parks are not intended for military training. The military use of state parks is at odds with Washington state law. For example:

a.) WAC 352-37-095, “Disturbances,” specifically prohibits any conduct which “..impedes or disturbs the general public in the use and enjoyment of state park areas…” Navy personnel have stated that a safety officer will survey the park for users and ask them their intention so that the Navy can “train around them.” Most people who are told that a combat training activity is going on “around them” will certainly be disturbed.

b.) WAC 352-37-230, “Firearms,” specifically prohibits discharging of a firearm “except for good cause authorized by the commission.” The possession, display, carrying, discharge or use of a firearm is regulated under 9.41 of RCW. The Navy’s use of firearms – ‘simulated’ or not – is not in keeping with the peaceful nature intended in Recreational Parks.

c.) WAC 352-32-010, “Intimidate,” prohibits engaging in conduct in state parks “…that would make a reasonable person fearful.” Based on remarks by Navy personnel at recent open houses who said civilians might wander unawares into a secret military exercise, uninformed that by doing so they become participants, and going so far as to suggest that people should no longer have any expectations of privacy in the woods because the Navy might be watching, this Draft EA is so egregious in its deliberate introduction of anxiety into what were once normal outdoor activities that it should be withdrawn.

2. Protection of children insufficient: Despite legal requirements set out by WAC 352-32-010 and by Presidential Executive Order 13045, “Protection of Children from Environmental Health and Safety Risks,” the Draft EA dismisses in one brief sentence any potential effects on children who may witness training events that include “direct action” mock gun battles by military members in full combat gear. It fails to recognize that children are especially prone to being frightened by realistic violence, and that they do not have the maturity to self-regulate or cope with trauma.

3. Military Bases need to be used first: The Navy makes a big deal about needing the strong currents and cold water of Puget Sound. The Navy already HAS 46 miles of coastline and 151,000 acres of land in this region; plenty at Bremerton, Kitsap and Whidbey Naval Air Station (on both sides of the island). And there are plenty of people in those military bases and surrounding communities who love interacting with the Navy. Now the Navy has chosen more than 265 additional miles of shoreline, much of it private property, but it has not demonstrated why existing locations with willing participants are inadequate. No training can be perfect – the divers aren’t going to be shot at with real bullets. So what’s the big deal about needing “more realistic” training? This training in and around communities who object to it amounts to an unprecedented military taking of public lands and privacy protections, by the use of intimidation; it should be conducted on the lands that are already owned by the Department of Defense; that’s why the public set them aside. Normalizing military training into the lives of civilians regardless of their objections because it is “convenient” for the Navy displays a stunning level of contempt for these communities.

4. Failure to assess impacts to communities, the environment, and to our economies: The Draft EA fails to accurately disclose how many military personnel in total will actually be training or serving as support crews, and thus fails to predict or assess the level of impacts to multiple “secret” sites along the 265 additional miles of shoreline the Navy has selected. It fails to address the economic impacts to a vibrant tourism industry that will not react favorably, and it fails to address potential impacts on property values associated with, or adjacent to, the training. For example, in the event a property owner discovers that a “real estate agreement” exists between his/her neighbor and the Navy, is that property owner obliged to disclose that fact to potential buyers? What are the legal ramifications if a buyer backs out of a sale due to the existence of combat training on an adjacent property, or if the value of a property near one that hosts this training declines? Most of these exercises will happen at night. Trainees are trainees, so what if they make a mistake and invade the wrong beach or property? One with sensitive nesting habitat, or especially, one with young children who are easily traumatized?

5. Failure to disclose hazards to civilians: According to Navy materials, “building clearing” direct actions are slated to take place on both private property and in state parks. A Navy representative said “gentle” fake bullets will be used, which we assume means paintballs. The Draft EA does not address what happens when realistic-looking weapons are fired and civilians who are unaware of the exercise get caught in the crossfire. How will the paintballs feel if someone without protective clothing gets hit? Does the Navy pay for medical care and counseling for PTSD? What happens when an innocent bystander gets injured? Are “hostages” used in these exercises? What if trainees get discovered by someone with a real gun? And what if a gun battle ensues with real bullets? Who is legally responsible? If this happens in a state park, who gets sued, Parks or the Navy, or both? How has the Navy apprised the community of people who hunt?

6. Biological, cultural and historic impacts not analyzed: The Draft EA fails to evaluate the effects of sonar use by mini-submarines and other disturbances in the sensitive shallow-water ecosystems that support hundreds of species of birds, fish, crabs and other animals and plants. It dismisses impacts of repeated trampling in shallow waters, beaches and upland areas where birds may be nesting, and erosion of cliffs from climbing. Its analysis of cumulative impacts to Tribal, cultural and historic sites that may be impacted is one paragraph long and completely inadequate.

7. Marine navigation hazards not addressed: The Navy has said it will train divers to get on shore undetected. That means they’ll not have any dive lights or other devices to make them visible to others in or on the water. And since the Navy has said that the area won’t be roped off or restricted, kayaks, sailboats and other craft that use those waters could collide with a Navy vessel. Given the recent track record of Navy ships running into other ships and causing great damage, how can we expect this won’t happen here?

8. Drones, robotic surveillance technology not disclosed: It fails to mention or analyze the advanced technologies that will be used for military surveillance and communication inside our communities and state parks during these secret operations, which include unmanned underwater and aerial drones, and robotic devices. It ignores completely the privacy concerns of any passersby with electronic devices such as smart phones, who may be unaware they are being surveilled, tracked, and possibly recorded. It throws into question our Fourth Amendment protections.

9. Missing check list: During the open houses, a Navy trainer said areas would be assessed prior to any training deployment. However, no such check list or procedure is in the EA. How will the Navy know which birds are nesting where? Will they call Fish and Wildlife? The Audubon Society? No one was able to answer the question of how the sites are chosen with respect to doing no harm to wildlife and habitat. All we were told was, “Trust us.” Where is the checklist? Who will be contacted to know what areas are sensitive at training time? This smacks of “just give us permission and we’ll be careful.” Given that the military is driven by procedures and rules, where are the rules and procedures for site selection? How will the appropriate officials be notified PRIOR to training at a given site? Who is keeping track of which sites have been used how many times? The Navy has been very consistent in NOT disclosing information like this when there is no reason to keep it secret. Citizens and public officials alike have a right to know what is happening and where. The Navy is not above the law.

10. Using unwitting and unwilling passersby as proxies for “enemies” on which military trainees can practice their tracking skills is a most reprehensible form of bullying. This training intimidates those who have been accustomed to enjoying outdoor activities, and is an example of the unhealthy relationships and declining levels of trust that exist between the Navy and its neighboring communities. State parks and private property are not a military playground, and the people who live and recreate there are not military playthings. Therefore, I ask that this Draft EA be withdrawn and that the Navy cease and desist this training in state parks and private lands.

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Unmanned surface drone.

 

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Navy Combat Training Coming to Our Neighborhoods

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UPDATE – February 10: At the open house, Navy representatives said the public will not be shown boundaries or shut out when the Navy is conducting an exercise on public or private lands, “…so you may wander unawares into a secret military exercise, uninformed that by doing so, you are a participant.”

Another Navy representative said, “…the point is to be able to watch and track whoever comes through—you, the public, “the enemy,” without your awareness, whether you’re walking, fishing, enjoying nature, or otherwise going about your business.” He suggested that people should not be doing anything in the woods for which privacy might be needed, because “…we might be watching you.”  Which is highly ironic given that an entire Navy unit’s command was fired last week after being found drunk and naked in the woods, the second time in less than a year that an entire command has been fired.

A third confirmed that the public is to be the proxy for the enemy: “That’s the point: for the military to take down enemies without being detected. If the public detects us, then we’ve failed in what we’re trying to do.” He then assured listeners that the Navy would use “…environmentally friendly gentle fake bullets.”

Statements like this do not represent a healthy relationship between the Navy and surrounding communities. The absence of discussion in the Draft EA, and the absence of any sensitivity on the Navy’s part at the open houses, on how people might feel about being used as practice enemies for the military with neither their knowledge nor consent, to be watched at any time or any place by armed military combatants along more than 265 miles of Puget Sound coast, is as stunning in scope as is the proposal itself.

 

February 6, 2018 ~ The Navy has opened for comment an Environmental Assessment (EA) for Special Operations in which Navy SEALs stage covert small team landings via mini-subs and small boats, with up to 20 personnel concealing themselves ashore for up to 72 hours, plus mock gun battles with paintballs, called “direct actions.” Although the Navy owns 46 miles of shoreline in the Pacific Northwest and over 151,000 acres of land here, this combat training will occur in our communities, boat marinas, 65+ state parks, public beaches, and on some private lands in Puget Sound and on the outer coast. It’s possible that this training may entail climbing some of the steep glacial till cliff faces around Port Townsend, which local residents and property owners know are already dangerously eroding. One of the places selected for mock gun battles with paintballs includes the memorial peace park atop the bluffs at Fort Worden, which some residents interpret as a stick in the eye, not to mention being an assault on a place that has historic, cultural and spiritual value.

Click to enlarge the image below. From the EA – cliff scaling is expected.

Scaling cliffs

Here’s a map of training sites. Click to enlarge. Purple = combat training. Most of these are civilian populated areas with ecologically sensitive shorelines.

Special Ops training Map

Below is an example of an insert that’s put into a real weapon in order to allow it to shoot paintballs. The weapons these people will be carrying are not “simulated” as claimed.

iFIT_with_insert_orange

The Navy will close off a buffer of 500 – 1,000 feet around its actions, which amounts to a summary closure of public property if you happen to be using the beach or shoreline when they’re landing. State law requires a public process for closing public access to state park property. State law also prohibits conduct in state parks that “would make a reasonable person fearful.” This EA would result in a permit to do that in dozens of populated locations for several months each year. Normalizing combat training in our lives where we live and recreate so that the Navy can “hide” in full combat gear in our midst is not acceptable. Neither is trampling sensitive shoreline habitats we have been trying to protect and restore.

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This is a startling development, made more so by the fact that there’s something wrong with the numbers the Navy is giving us.

According to the EA, a maximum of 84 personnel will be training during the spring, summer and fall, and they will spread out among multiple sites to minimize damage to sensitive shoreline habitats. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the full story. In an email obtained by Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action via an Open Records Act request, an aide in the Governor’s office expressed surprise and concern that the Navy evidently intends to cycle through this training the entire Marine Raider Regiment (at least 1,200 personnel) and the dive teams from the 1st Special Forces Command (about 800 personnel.) 2,000+ personnel per year is a much different and far more damaging scenario than 84.

If you want to actually talk to someone in the Navy about this, here are the details on three open houses this week, and we’ve provided a list of questions below. Open houses are what the Navy does instead of holding a real hearing in which the public gets to ask questions and hear answers as a group. You can submit written comments at these open houses, but we will also be writing sample comments soon for the public to adapt as they see fit.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 from 5 – 8 pm in Poulsbo, WA: North Kitsap High School Commons, 1780 NE Hostmark Street.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 from 5 – 8 pm in Port Townsend, WA, Blue Heron School Commons, 3939 San Juan Avenue.

Thursday, February 8, 2018 from 5 – 8 pm in Oak Harbor, WA, Oak Harbor School District ASC Board Room, 350 S. Oak Harbor Street

If you can’t attend these, the comment period is open until February 21. We will help by providing sample comments. You can email your comments to: nwnepa@navy.mil or you can snail-mail them to:

Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest

Attention: Project Manager, EV21.AW

1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203

Silverdale, WA 98315-1101

There appears to be no online comment page.

Here’s a quote about training for clearing buildings, with mock gun battles. Click to enlarge.

Mock gun battles

Here’s a quote about stealth beach landings and hiding in the bushes. Click to enlarge.

Hiding in bushes

Here’s a list of questions to ask the Navy:

  1. Why the disparity in the number of personnel? 2,000 vs 84 is a big difference.
  2. The EA says not every site will be used every year, but some sites will be used as often as 36 times per year. With this many personnel trampling sensitive shoreline habitats during nesting season across so many miles of shoreline, the impacts are likely to be significant, so why isn’t this being treated as a major project with a proper EIS instead of minimized with a much shorter EA? (Note: An EIS = Environmental Impact Statement; it’s often 1,000+ pages and takes at least a year with a far more thorough analysis and public process.)
  3. The mini subs will be using sonar in the shallows. That’s where juvenile fish, crabs and other species live during a vulnerable part of their lives. Why is this dismissed as not significant?
  4. The Navy has been doing this training on a smaller scale without notifying the public, for the past 8 years, and possibly as many as 30. Why did you wait so long to start the public process? The law says we are supposed to have a say in what happens in our communities before you make decisions.
  5. How is it possible to avoid damaging historic and cultural sites, especially those belonging to Tribes? There are 18 historic and cultural properties in just one of three training “regions” listed in the EA. Has the Navy formally consulted with local governments on historic and cultural sites, and if not, why not? If so, may we see the reports?
  6. Have the needs of Tribes to preserve their treaty rights been addressed? If so, how?
  7. With a project this large, why has the Navy not initiated Endangered Species Act consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service? Did the Navy exempt itself from having to consult, and if so, how?

We must all insist that this EA be stopped and a proper EIS be prepared for a project of this magnitude.

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To download the EA, click here: https://navfac.navy.mil/navfac_worldwide/atlantic/fecs/northwest/about_us/northwest_documents/nw__national_environmental_policy_act_nepa_documents/NSOEA.html

EA cover

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Politicians Call for World War III to Save Economy

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January 24, 2018 ~ Now that we have your attention, we wish that heading was pure satire, but unfortunately, it’s not. Hewing to a philosophy that the lack of major wars may be hurting economic growth, and thus civilian control of the military is not so important anymore, the Washington State legislature has been seriously considering a pair of bills whose language is so carelessly worded that they could turn over control of public and private land use throughout the state to the military. House Bill 2341 and Senate Bill 6456 would ensure that “incompatible” land uses anywhere near military activities, or even not near them, which includes residential, business, recreational and other uses, including on private land, can be prohibited.

The title of Dahr Jamail’s article in Truthout today says it all, and we recommend you read it because the details are startling: The Military Wants to Dictate Private Land Use — and Washington State Might Let It.

These bills would set a national precedent, secure the physical foundations of what’s been called an “Economic Club” in Washington, and would be a big boost for those who believe that America should fight bigger, more exciting wars against all kinds of enemies, in order to maximize defense industry profits and stimulate an economy in which we have been spending more on defense than the next 11 countries combined, but will spend much more if current trends continue.

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What would these two bills do? Here are a few implications. 

  1. They allow military commanders, not local governments, to determine what’s an “incompatible” use and make the prohibition of such incompatible uses, even future ones that don’t exist yet, mandatory in city and county planning.
  1. They extend these prohibitions to public and private lands that aren’t even near military bases, and seek to retroactively alter existing land use agreements between communities and the military, without public process. How this might affect Native American lands, treaty rights and tribal sovereignty is unknown.
  1. As currently worded, the bills would allow even small military installations to control land uses for surrounding communities. As of January 2012 the military had completed 92 of these Joint Land Use Studies in the majority of states, so if a precedent is set in Washington there’s no reason to think it won’t happen elsewhere.
  1. By outlawing all land uses that may be incompatible with present or even future military missions, there would exist an “inverse condemnation” of property, where the government takes property without compensating for it. That may violate both the Washington State Constitution (Article 1, Section 18) and the United States Constitution (10th Amendment.)

How’s that going to work out? Right now, for example, the Navy has an Environmental Assessment open for comment, in which Navy SEAL training “…will occur on Navy installations, state parks, public properties, and private properties if appropriate approvals are granted.” These include huge shoreline areas of Puget Sound and Hood Canal, and all the state parks in western Washington. It promises that while damage will be done to these places, it will be spread over many sites. You may recall that back in early 2016 Truthout broke the story, provided by a whistleblower, that Navy SEALs had been training for more than 8 and as many as 30 years on more than 68 state parks, beaches and private lands without notifying the public or going through the required legal process.

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According to the two bills before the Washington Legislature, it’s conceivable that if you have property near areas where this training occurs, you could be prevented from developing it or prohibited from using is as you wish. This has already happened on Hood Canal.

Here’s the kicker: remember when we wrote about a little known blueprint for expanding the military’s presence in Washington? It was a report from the newly-formed taxpayer-funded Super-Pac called the Washington Military Alliance. We reported that for every $1 spent on troops, $2 are spent on defense contractors, and that an army of more than 400 lobbyists had finally overturned limits to military spending.

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Now the chickens are coming home to roost. The chief sponsor of House Bill 2341 is Representative Kristine Reeves, who also happens to be the paid Executive Director of the Washington Military Alliance. Rep. Reeves is the sole contact listed on an advertising page designed to lure more defense industry contractors to Washington, and is also named in the WMA brochure, neither of which say she is an elected official who is bound by ethics rules. Oddly enough, her WMA staff page description also fails to mention she’s an elected State Representative, and her State Legislator’s page fails to mention she’s the head of the Washington Military Alliance.

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Such conduct as a paid lobbyist who sponsors a bill in her capacity of elected representative of the very people it will affect, might, if you read the Legislature’s Ethics Manual, appear to be a conflict of interest. In fact, it seems to blatantly violate language in the section on page 4 called “Conflicts of Interest and Outside Compensation.” To wit, the guidance says:

“Is there a restriction on outside employment of legislators that involves lobbying?

Yes, legislators are prohibited from holding the position of executive director or other administrative officer of a trade association or other similar organization which has lobbying as a principal activity.”

So, to summarize: we seem to have a paid lobbyist who got elected to the State Legislature but is still a paid lobbyist, lobbying for a bill she helped craft, from the lobby group she’s still paid by. How do her constituents, whose lands will be affected, feel about that?

But the bigger question is this: How do you feel about military commanders being able to tell you what you can and cannot do on your own land? Do we all just sit quiet while the pristine peaceful character of western Washington is altered forever? Do we allow our local governments to be forced to kowtow to military commanders telling them what they can and cannot do with public and private lands?

Ironically, it was former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking at the Eisenhower Library last year, who questioned America’s insatiable appetite for more and more weapons:

“Does the number of warships we have, and are building, really put America at risk, when the U.S. battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined — 11 of which are our partners and allies? Is it a dire threat that by 2020, the United States will have only 20 times more advanced stealth fighters than China?”

What can you do? First and foremost: Become an informed voter and vote in every election; that’s citizenship. Learn about the laws that govern what federal and state agencies do. Get busy and write avalanches of letters objecting to this travesty. Comment on proposed actions during comment periods. Even though you might feel discouraged that your letters and comments won’t make a difference, be assured: they do. Especially en masse.

Write to the following:

On House Bill 2341:

Joe.Fitzgibbon@leg.wa.gov

Strom.Peterson@leg.wa.gov

David.Taylor@leg.wa.gov,

Jacquelin.Maycumber@leg.wa.gov,

Vincent.Buys@leg.wa.gov,

Ruth.Kagi@leg.wa.gov,

Joan.McBride@leg.wa.gov,

Fey@leg.wa.gov

 

On Senate Bill 6456:

Dean.Takko@leg.wa.gov,

Guy.Palumbo@leg.wa.gov,

Shelly.Short@leg.wa.gov,

Jan.Angel@leg.wa.gov,

Marko.Liias@leg.wa.gov

 

Share this post and Dahr Jamail’s Truthout article with your own contacts. Sign a petition.

Visit plane truths.org to become more informed.

Find a local group and get involved, or form your own group.

Don’t just sit there. Together we can make a difference.

10 Orcas

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Does the Navy use the best available science? An essay.

Assessing damage to Los Angeles class submarine USS San Francisco in dry dock after running aground near Guam, January 2005.

Assessing damage to the billion-dollar Los Angeles class submarine USS San Francisco in dry dock after running aground near Guam, January 2005. While this photo is shocking and somewhat dated, it makes one wonder why the high number of ship collisions and aircraft crashes in 2017 alone (at least 6) continue, and what the Navy isn’t doing to prevent them. There is science in safety, and safety in science.

December 16, 2017 – This essay covers another angle of public concern about the US Navy in the Pacific Northwest. But our region isn’t alone in its frustration with a military hell-bent on expanding into civilian areas without regard for its neighbors.

Besides being intuitively obvious, the phrase “best available science” is also a legal directive in the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the Magnusen-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Basically, all of them instruct federal agencies to use the best available scientific and commercial data when making decisions under those laws.

2 Data Knowledge Action

As stated above, the meaning of this phrase might seem obvious, and most of us might assume that its use is being enforced by courts, but that would not be accurate. There have also been dozens of efforts by Congress to politicize it by allowing political appointees, rather than the scientific community, to determine what is best available science in their agency decisions. In 2017 alone, Republicans introduced 63 proposals to undermine species protection and force agencies to abandon the requirement to use “best available science” in their decisions.

So far, legislative challenges to weaken, limit, burden or stop use of best available science have mostly failed, except for a two-sentence paragraph that was inserted into a massive appropriations bill back in 2001, by a legislative aide who was anti-regulation. Nobody saw it until it was too late. The 2-sentence Data Quality Act is heavily biased toward industry and exploitation, and is a potent tool for beating back regulations that are based on science.

3 Data

In domestic examples of the consequences, the Competitive Enterprise Institute sued the EPA in 2002 to prevent dissemination of a Climate Action Report on the basis of not meeting the requirements of the Data Quality Act. A lobby group for salt producers actually sued the Department of Health and Human Services for claiming that too much salt is harmful to health, even though that claim was backed up by the National Institutes of Health, which said that the food industry was adding too much salt to foods. The Data Quality Act forces agencies to ignore the precautionary principle in order to meet the Act’s “information quality” requirements. The precautionary principle basically says that if the effects of your proposed action are unknown, then you probably shouldn’t do it. Which is exactly where we are with the Navy’s exponentially increased assaults on the environment, our local economies, and public health. We don’t know what the impacts will be, and frankly, neither do they. If you’ve read their documents, as we have, proof of “no significant impacts,” especially cumulative ones, is entirely missing, as is any definition of the word “significant.”

Unfortunately, the Data Quality Act is interpreted to mean this: if you can’t prove adverse effects beyond a doubt, you should go ahead with your action because the science is not proven, and therefore is invalid for purposes of the agency’s decision-making process. Got that? So where does the Navy come in?

New Navy ship

The last thing the Navy wants is to be caught contributing to the extinction of an endangered species or the reduction of a fishery, so anything that might make it easier to get around federal law is evidently welcome. We’ve discussed in previous posts how the Navy separates impact analyses into multiple pieces in their Environmental Impact Statements and Assessments, in order to water down the public’s knowledge of the full picture of effects. Now we’ll show how the Navy benefits from this speed bump on the road to using proper science.

5 Sperm whale

Right after the Data Quality Act was passed, 12 endangered species were immediately downlisted or delisted. Recently an oil company successfully sued to get another species off the list so it could develop an area. Without the slight margin of error we get from the precautionary principle, which is bedrock to the conservation of ecosystems, we walk the razor’s edge of extinction without a safety net.

The federally threatened marbled murrelet.

The endangered marbled murrelet.

So, with the Navy so resistant to give up data that would help scientists to understand the harm being done, even going so far as to classify information that was once freely available, it’s more difficult than ever. The National Parks Conservation Association saw their Freedom of Information Act request about Navy activity in the Olympic National Forest granted, but the Forest Service deliberately delayed sending them the data for six months, until after just the comment period closed and the information could no longer be used in their comments. NPCA sued, but it’s doubtful they’ll be able to affect the final record of decision. Why would the Forest Service violate the law on behalf of the Navy? Is this fair to the public? Let’s answer that by addressing another question.

7 FOIA cartoon

Is the Navy using best available science? We can assume that the Navy is well aware of the unevenness around the use of best available science. After reading dozens of Navy EISs, EAs, letters and internal materials provided by a whistleblower, our answer to this question would have to be: they use best available science when it’s to their advantage; when it’s not, they don’t. But we are not the first to say that. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is one of many observant organizations that have written letter after letter to the Navy over the years, saying similar things. Here are some quotes from a variety of letters by NRDC to the Navy, starting in 2009. It almost doesn’t matter what the subject was, the complaints made then are the same complaints we have now.

“…dismisses or improperly minimizes any significant risk to fish and wildlife in this area.”

“…assessment of impacts is consistently undermined by failure to meet these fundamental responsibilities of scientific integrity, methodology, investigation and disclosure.”

“…analysis substantially understates the potential effects of sonar on marine wildlife.”

“…concludes that only one harbor seal would suffer serious injury or die during the many hours of proposed sonar training. The Navy reaches this conclusion by excluding relevant information adverse to its interests, using approaches and methods that are unacceptable to the scientific community and ignoring entire categories of impacts.”

“…analysis entirely fails to account for cumulative impacts for the years of anticipated activity.”

8 Navy explosion2

It’s worth noting that the NRDC has won nearly every lawsuit it has filed against the Navy. But it’s like trying to play a giant whack-a-mole game with someone who has all the advantage. The Navy keeps violating legal requirements so often that some attorneys have described the Navy’s position as default noncompliance with environmental and public health laws.

10 Orcas

Many of us have been saying these things for years, and we’re still saying them on almost every proposed action the Navy makes. Tribes, environmental groups, concerned citizens, local governments and even Members of Congress have been pointing out these deficiencies. County Boards of Supervisors in Mendocino, Marin and Humboldt counties in Northern California and in Lincoln County, Oregon, plus the City Council in Port Townsend, Washington, and multiple other local government bodies throughout all three states have sent official letters strongly objecting to the harm caused by various “…inadequacies, contradictions, lack of reliable data, insufficient mitigations, lack of transparency, and lack of commitment to public engagement.” A 2009 letter from seven Senators in the Pacific Northwest complained about the astounding number of marine mammal takes – 11.7 million over five years, and questioned the Navy’s justification. Eleven city councils in Alaska have passed resolutions objecting to the Navy’s timing of its war games in that state. The Navy’s Northwest Testing and Training Range manager told this writer privately at a meeting where 150 people were lined up to give testimony that was never officially accepted for the record, “We’re here to listen to what they have to say, but we’re not going to do anything about it because we don’t have to.” Yes, he actually said that.

Special Report KTVU Ten OClock News

So, to demonstrate our claim that the Navy only selectively uses best available science, here are just five out of dozens of recent examples, all of which come from Navy-produced documents:

Example #1. Twenty thousand tons of heavy metals that are toxic to the environment will be dropped, exploded or discarded into our local Puget Sound and Washington and Oregon coastal waters over the next twenty years. This will be the equivalent size and weight of one Yorktown-class aircraft carrier, but totally made of contaminants. Without citing any scientific proof, the Navy’s 2015 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) claims the contaminants will be “neutralized” by chemical reaction with seawater, or “rendered benign” by organisms that will consume them. It does not discuss cumulative effects from previous decades of toxic deposition, or the prior use of more than 30 tons of depleted uranium in cannon shells, much of it in waters where 4 Northwest Tribes have Treaty rights. Another EIS for “Phase Two” with more increases is coming out in 2018.

12 Underwater

Example #2. In 2014 the Navy wrote an EA for proposed actions on Forest Service roads. They said amphibians are not found in disturbed areas, therefore there would be no harm done to amphibians. Any third-grader knows that a), this is a rainforest, and b), you find amphibians in rainforests, whether disturbed or not. Many of us pointed this out in comment letters, but the Forest Service did not even attempt to correct it before endorsing the EA and issuing the permit.

USFWS Spotted_Owl_and_Marbled_Murrelet_Habitat

Example #3. The Navy uses a 28 year-old scientific literature review in its EISs and EAs in the Pacific Northwest, to inject doubt into claims that noise adversely affects wildlife. This is despite the existence of far more recent and voluminous scientific evidence, including a brand-new literature review that was available before publication of a recent EIS that relied on the 28 year-old studies. It didn’t even acknowledge the existence of any more recent research. And by the way, most of the studies in that old literature review did indeed conclude jet noise harms domestic animals, wildlife and humans. The Navy lifted a single sentence out of context from one of its papers. From whistleblower materials, we discovered that they also refused to provide the Fish and Wildlife Service with the information it needed to accurately predict impacts and insisted via a series of leaked emails that they use of a 41 year-old study on domestic poultry, while at the same time requiring those predictions to be valid for the next 20 years. In an ironic twist, the Navy scolded the Superintendent of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in a November 2015 letter that said she should be more careful about establishing “hot spot” locations for several species, because the research she and her staff used was funded by… the Navy.

Upset

Example #4. The Navy’s aircraft noise modeling software is outdated. It does not analyze the low-frequency noise that’s a signature of the Growler jets that replaced the old Prowlers in 2005. A Department of Defense commissioned study found that the software they’re using is not appropriate for Growler engines. The modeling uses a software called NOISEMAP, that was developed in the 1970s and whose most recent upgrade was 12 years ago. It uses a library of aircraft sounds from the Air Force, with no actual measurements from affected areas. I’ve also read accounts that say the Air Force’s sound library is out of date. The modeling they do is for the flat island terrain near the base, and not coastal mountains, which bounce sound waves differently and have completely different weather. In looking at NOISEMAP’s inadequacies, the DOD’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, or SERDP, determined that new software is needed “…to provide legally defensible noise assessments of current and future aircraft operations.” It found that NOISEMAP’s linear acoustics were inadequate for modeling the acoustic environments in the vicinity of higher thrust engines used in the Growler.

2 Growler-kill-mark-close

New software was developed in 2010 to address this, but conversations we’ve had with Navy officials indicate they are satisfied with the old software and don’t intend to upgrade it. The Navy also ignored Congressman Derek Kilmer’s request for a “neutral” sound study by FICAN (Federal Interagency Committee on Aviation Noise). It’s worth noting that researchers have found evidence of a higher incidence of vibroacoustic disease (thickening of heart tissue caused by low frequency noise) in residents living near air bases, than in residents elsewhere. Yet the effects from low-frequency noise have been neither measured nor analyzed, and if they have, were not made public. As a result, use of outdated studies and faulty software allows the Navy to conclude that “…it cannot be conclusively stated that a causal link exists between aircraft noise exposure and the various types of non-auditory health effects that were studied.” As an aside, a former Navy officer said, in an interview at radio station KXIR 89.9, on June 19, 2015, that he considered local residents who are being harmed by naval activities to be “collateral damage” in the war on terror. Yes, he actually said that.

Child with headache

Example #5. A Professor Emeritus at Washington State University who is a recognized expert on electromagnetic frequency, or EMF, effects on living tissue said, “the U.S. Navy provided in this Final EIS not a single citation to justify its claim that we don’t need to worry about such health effects. Since 1971, there have been well over 8,000 additional studies on non-thermal health effects. The Navy provides not even a single citation to the scientific literature to support its claims. In this entire EIS, the Navy has produced not a single study of biological impacts of the EMFs it plans to unleash on the people, animals and plants of the Olympic peninsula. Their entire argument for safety is based on a theory that only thermal effects need be considered, a theory that the Navy itself knew to be false 44 years ago and is widely known in the scientific community to be false. This alone should be more than sufficient to throw out this entire EIS.” Watch the video here.

Unfortunately, a growing body of case law shows too many agencies failing to use best available science, while the courts defer to agency judgment, even in some egregious cases of failure.

Courtroom

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, abbreviated NEPA, imposes a lesser standard: rather than insisting on the best scientific information available, its regulations require information of “high quality” and professional integrity. There’s wiggle room in how that could be interpreted. Regardless of how best available science is defined, the phrase describes a plainly-worded concept that is irrevocably woven into public trust responsibility: Best. Available. Science. Not second rate, not outdated. Best. If it’s been peer-reviewed and published, it’s available.

At the beginning of this article we featured a shocking photo of a nuclear submarine with its bow bashed in. This was the result of colliding at flank speed (about 43 mph) with an underwater mountain. This link leads to the Navy’s final report, which faulted bad procedure. Good procedure is based on the same precautions that underlie good science: unless you are certain of the effects, proceeding with your proposed action would be risky, even rash. By alienating and harming its neighbors, that’s the gamble the Navy is taking with public health, our economies and our environment.

So what can you do? In every comment letter you write to the Navy, you should be insisting that they use the best available science. You should be demanding that they demonstrate professional integrity with the data they use to back up claims, and when they don’t, you should call them out on it, publicly. You might also steer them toward that best available science, so that continued reliance on outdated or incomplete evidence is unsupportable.

Merely questioning the Navy’s failure to use best available science or the fairness of its public processes, or asking for data that should be available, does not mean we are questioning Navy’s legitimate need for training its sailors and pilots. Yet the questioner is too often labeled unpatriotic. In answer to the reasonable question from those 11 Alaskan communities, “would you please move your training to a non-peak migration time that does less damage to fisheries and marine mammals?’ the Navy moved it to coincide more precisely with peak whale and salmon migration. The public took it as a stick in the eye. Asking the Navy for a fairer public process has resulted in online nastiness from pilots and threats of bodily harm from Navy supporters, which is why we have disabled comments and do not sign the posts on this web site. Some people don’t like it when you question the military, even if your questions have merit. But wrong is wrong, no matter who does or says it.

Citizen questions navy

We need a well-trained military, but right now the Navy decides what it’s going to do long before opening the public process, and then they don’t listen to suggestions on how to minimize their impacts, unless they are taken to court. That’s got to stop. So, create a loud chorus of demands that the Navy use the best available science, and with your letters, articles, public comments and other communications, call them out on it when they don’t. Let your elected representatives hear your displeasure. We may not have enough money to sue them every time they break the law, but collectively we can try them in the Court of Public Opinion. Because they cannot ignore forever the legitimate economic, environmental and public health concerns of the people who pay for their salaries and equipment.

Taxes

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Navy to Neighbors: “You’re F**ked.”

Navy skywrites phallus

A Navy plane drew this picture in the sky over Okanogan County on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.

November 17, 2017~Dear Whidbey Island Navy Growler Pilots,

Yesterday, one of your aircrews went to a lot of trouble to skywrite a giant erect phallus over one of the local areas in which you train and make a lot of noise. Your neighbors who endure this noise have always known that subtlety is not the Navy’s strong suit, what with all the decibels, bombs, irradiation, state park and beach combat training and general whooping it up for war that it has imposed on us.

You have, however, taken chest-thumping to, shall we say, a new low. When everyone has finally stopped laughing and backslapping and saying whoa, dude, awesome, would you please take a quiet moment to reflect on the symbolism of what has been done?

The exquisite timing of this stunt makes a number of messages as clear and vulgar as the dick in the sky:

  1. That boys will be boys, now and forevermore, amen.
  1. That all of your neighbors who’ve objected to your intrusions into once-quiet lives in these once-quiet regions can just s**k on it.
  1. That our tax dollars are yours for the wasting;
  1. That starving or eliminating domestic programs and laying a real hurtin’ on people who don’t deserve it, in order for you to gas up your planes and go play is our loss and your gain;
  1. That women should look up and always remember who’s on top. Also, even the sky is having a #MeToo moment.
  1. That each $68 million dollar fighter jet your neighbors see flying overhead is under the command of a guy who wants everyone to know there’s a reason the controls that affect all of our lives are in a place called the cockpit.

Yes, we know, this is not the first time it’s happened, so you can’t even claim originality. An Air Force retiree recalls a dick in the sky at Lackland AFB a number of years ago; the base commander put the pilot on disciplinary leave. We are led to believe that the Navy takes this incident seriously, because it says it will exercise “zero tolerance” and “hold the aircrew accountable.” Since holding naval personnel accountable for previous bad behavior that the community has called out has not happened in a long time around here, we have no idea what that means: a lecture? a slap on the wrist? a memo to the personnel file? a wink and a nod? next time, draw a vagina?

This writer does not normally resort to colorful language, and you will notice that these posts are also never signed, because threats in the past due to speaking out (which the Navy has never addressed) have deemed it wiser to not reveal our names.

So, dear Whidbey Island Navy Growler pilots, please know this: we realize not all of you are like the dickheads who pulled this stunt, but we bet a lot of you are laughing about it anyway. If you pass this off as harmless, you will be complicit and reinforcing the six messages above. And you’ll be confirming another one: that the Navy holds its neighbors in contempt, because, as retired naval officer and former Island County Commissioner Mac McDowell, who speaks up for the Navy locally, said in a radio interview and call-in show,* “…the citizens of the area are collateral damage in the war on terror.”

It may as well have been a middle finger, but the dick was probably easier to draw.

But it’s always good to know where we stand, which will eventually be as constituents on the throats of the people who control the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. We don’t expect results any time soon, because you are too busy converting Whidbey Island into one giant polluted mega-base and this region into a giant defense contractor Disneyland, but as you’ve shown to people in other regions of the world who’ve endured your arrogance, your neighbors will not forget, and we will prevail. Should you decide to become better neighbors, most of us would support you.

Sincerely,

Your Neighbors in Okanagon, the San Juans, Whidbey Island, and the Olympic Peninsula

 

*Radio interview was on KSER 90.7 and KXIR 89.9 on Friday, June 19, 2015 from 4 to 5:00 pm, hosted by Ed Bremner and Darrell Gray.

UPDATE NOVEMBER 18: Letter to Navy from Rep. Derek Kilmer, and Seattle Times article. There are also articles in the Washington Post, BBC, San Diego Tribune, Guardian, and other media.

 

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How to Gaslight the Public

Gaslight poster

The movie from which the term “gaslighting” originated.

August 13, 2017 ~ What is gaslighting? The word comes from a 1944 movie where a husband who was trying to drive his wife insane would (among other tactics) slowly and steadily dim the flame on gas lamps in the house while denying that there had been any change. The disoriented wife ended up becoming dependent on him to tell her what was real and what was not, believing him despite clear evidence he was lying.

Psychologists call it a form of mental abuse. Gaslighting is a pattern of willful and sophisticated manipulation used by individuals and organizations to gain control over people by creating doubt in their minds. Because the actions of gaslighters do not match their words, and because they will not admit that they are the problem, their intent is to keep people off-balance. When you question their actions or object to their tactics, gaslighters will twist, reframe, deny or change the subject, tell blatant lies, minimize your concerns, or discredit you and try to make you question your own sanity. You end up feeling ignored, crushed, alienated, insulted, and irrational. Gaslighters know confusion and disorientation weakens people, including their own followers, who end up overlooking severe flaws, refusing to question distortions, and showing irrational loyalty.

It is worth noting that mentally stable people have no desire to control or manipulate others. Thinking, reasoning and questioning are not a threat to them; they do not have to lie or deceive, because there is no reason to.

gaslighting definition

After nearly 3 years of informed, rational, and evidence-based objections by the public in the form of thousands upon thousands of comment letters, petitions, questions at public meetings, and urgent pleas to elected officials and public health, safety and environmental agencies, we witnessed the Forest Service granting the US Navy a permit to conduct electronic warfare testing and training over our communities, using EA-18G Growlers, the loudest fighter jets on the planets, flying over mobile emitters using (and closing) roads in the Olympic National Forest. This permit cemented a cornerstone of the Navy’s acquisition of skies, public and private lands, and the seas around Washington’s Olympic Peninsula as their own military combat training zone. How did this happen over so much widespread and informed public opposition? Have we been gaslighted?

Let us present six selected pieces of evidence so you can decide for yourself.

  1. The Forest Service’s August 2017 press release announcing this permit says, “Approval of this special use permit would not increase the number of training flights by more than 10 percent, or one additional flight per day, from what the Navy is currently conducting.” But wait, the Navy’s October 2016 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) says electronic warfare operations are increasing by 72 percent, and that the number of flights out of Whidbey Island will increase by 47 percent, to 130,000. Of these, 79,000 are Growler flights. The purpose of a Growler is electronic warfare. The purpose of all this training is for aircrews to learn to conduct electronic attack. So, to say they’re adding only ONE flight per day to current levels is disingenuous and sounds ridiculous… unless they’ve already raised the numbers of flights illegally before the public process was completed, or perhaps changed the definition of the word “flight” (they still won’t define terms we’ve asked for.) But when it comes to massive recent increases in duration, frequency and loudness of Growler noise, our ears don’t lie.

being lied to

  1. After admitting at a videotaped November 2014 public meeting that the Navy never put notifications in local papers so people could learn about and comment on its Environmental Assessment (EA) for establishing an Electronic Warfare Range over our communities, Navy representative John Mosher said he hoped the discussion would “…answer and address concerns and help alleviate some of the misunderstanding, clear the air, and let us [Navy] move forward…” However, they didn’t really answer questions, they mostly batted them away. And neither the Navy nor the Forest Service accepted any comments from the 3 meetings as part of the official record, because they were not officially “hearings.” No official hearings that recorded or accepted written public testimony were ever held in these affected communities, and in fact the 2 agencies refused to take written comments when offered them; therefore, none of the public’s comments counted in the Navy’s EA, and nobody gained the necessary legal standing to take them to court.
  1. A source document referenced in the Navy’s 2014 EA said, in bold text, “Friendly electronic attack could potentially deny essential services to a local population that, in turn, could result in loss of life and/or political ramifications.” (Section 2h, “Unintended Consequences, page III-5) When questioned by a 911 dispatcher who was concerned about the potential of the fixed emitter at Pacific Beach to interfere with local emergency communications, the Navy’s John Mosher answered, “There was an opportunity for comment, there were no comments, received, it was advertised in local papers.” (This was videotaped.) “Which papers?” the dispatcher pressed. “Obviously it was not in the North Coast News, which serves Pacific Beach, so how can you receive comments if we do not have the information?”  Mosher: “We do the best to get the information to you.” Citizen: “How can we get you to address our issues?” Mosher: “You can talk to your representatives. We have completed the comment period.” Citizen (angered): “You have extended the comment period right here.” Mosher: “I’m not going to debate this.” Another concerned person asked about effects of such intense military activity, including unknown electromagnetic impacts, on property values, and Mosher replied, “Well I don’t think those fears are real.”

The Forest Service’s August 2017 press release announcing the permit said, “Public input received during the designated scoping, comment, and objection periods was considered in making the decision.”

Neither Senators Maria Cantwell nor Patty Murray have ever responded, beyond form letters urging us to “work with” the Navy, to concerns about this from thousands of constituents who voted for them.

On August 10, Congressman Derek Kilmer was quoted at a town meeting as saying, “…the establishment of the jet warfare range targeting area was vital for the nation’s security and the safety of the Growler jet pilots who will engage in the training exercises,” but he later clarified it by saying he “has not taken a position on the Navy’s electronic warfare range” and the page 1 story “erroneously gave the impression” that he personally supported the plan, while he was merely “outlining the Navy’s point of view.” This happened just after he voted for the largest military budget in history. It’s no secret that back in 2012, Cantwell, Murray and Kilmer all signed a pact (explained here) to benefit the Navy and the defense industry. Got that?

Taxes

  1. The Forest Service’s press release says, “Training would not typically occur on weekends…” Operative word here is “typically.” Weekend flying was never mentioned in the Navy’s 2014 environmental assessment, nor in any Forest Service materials. The first time the public heard about weekend flying was when the Forest Service put it in their draft permit in early 2017. It said Growlers will be allowed to fly on weekends so long as they don’t interfere with opening day and opening weekend for big game hunting season with rifles. Why big game hunters and no other stakeholder exceptions? Why no discussion of weekend flying in the EA, or in agency outreach materials? Why no chance for tourism and other economic stakeholders to ask for exemptions, too? These questions were never answered because we were never allowed to ask them, and now the door is open for the Navy to conduct electronic warfare over our communities and Olympic National Park on weekends, without the public ever being allowed to comment on it.
  1. It is illegal to erase important features like rivers, National Park boundaries, or even entire lakes, from maps in an EA in order to make it look like they’re going to be operating in the middle of nowhere, but that’s exactly what the Navy did. Federal law, 18 U.S. Code § 1515 to be specific, defines “misleading conduct” in part, as: “(D) with intent to mislead, knowingly submitting or inviting reliance on a sample, specimen, map, photograph, boundary mark, or other object that is misleading in a material respect.” A federal agency also can’t legally break up what should be a larger EIS with a more thorough public process into multiple small EAs, to avoid a broader public discussion, or to avoid examining the full cumulative or overall impacts. It cannot pre-decide what it is going to do and commit federal funding in advance, before presenting the proposal to the public as a retrofit that’s mere wind-dressing. But that’s what they did, and continue to do. For a rather shocking comparison of spoken and written statements by the Navy and Forest Service based on official documents compared with transcripts of video recordings from public meetings, go here.manipulation
  1. The Navy uses a process called Joint Land Use Studies (JLUS) when looking for ways to reduce potential conflicts between military installations and surrounding areas. Their guidance manual states, “The JLUS program relies on strong community planning … The JLUS program is community controlled and community directed.” The problem is, as pointed out in this editorial, if the community is never informed of the Navy’s intentions, or of existing or potential land use conflicts, then the community cannot be involved in the process, can they? Very little is known about munitions stored at Indian Island just across the bay from Port Townsend, but a document obtained from a whistleblower indicates the Navy is building three new storage magazines there for Tomahawk missiles, which can carry nuclear as well as non-nuclear warheads. Most people are unaware of this. At the submarine base in Bangor, which will soon be handling explosives equal to 7.44 million pounds of TNT in the form of rocket motor propellant and whose newly expanded blast zone now extends far into residential areas (but not to naval housing areas), the Navy has called citizens’ concerns “fears” and “urban myths” while at the same time spending over $32 million to beef up its own buildings against possible blasts. It also falsely asserted that the explosives are being handled “in accordance with requirements” set by the Navy. The latter is patently false, because the Department of Defense Explosives Safety Board refused to approve the siting of these 2 new explosives handling wharves in Hood Canal, due to its concerns about blast zones extending into residential areas. They asked the Navy to prove that one accidentally exploding missile at Bangor would not “promptly propagate” to the other 23 missiles on each submarine, coalescing the blast waves into a single explosive source. The Navy answered them by saying that satisfying public concerns was not feasible. Sadly, that’s probably one of the most accurate things they’ve ever said.

WTF

So make up your own mind. In our opinion, “gaslighting” may not be a strong enough word to describe how the Navy and its supporters have managed to bully the public into this massive expansion. “Imperil” sounds more accurate.

Marbled-Murrelet-single-egg-Nick_Hatch_US_ForestService

A marbled murrelet egg in its old-growth nest. We include this as a symbol of not giving up hope. Stay engaged. The more people who do, the sooner we stop the Navy’s gaslighting and other irresponsible behaviors.

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The Navy is bringing in another 40 of the loudest jets on the planet

Burning money

May 16, 2017 – If you think it was loud before, wait until 40 more Growlers arrive, bringing the totals to 157 or 160, not the 118 they’ve been telling us about. This new order is on top of the 36 jets that were just evaluated in a draft EIS (Environmental Impact Statement.) The next 40 probably won’t be given the EIS treatment because the only reason the Navy did a full EIS for the last 36 is because they were sued by citizens who wanted a fair public process. Piecemealing, via at least 6 separate processes, the insertion of 160 Growler jets into our lives is illegal, yet the Navy has openly violated the law for years. If you want a stark example, the impacts from the 36 Growlers that were analyzed in the recent Draft EIS represent only 50% of the impacts from the newest jets, and if you do the math, less than 25% of total impacts from all 160. But breaking the impacts into small pieces allows the Navy to declare that each piece has “no significant impacts,” while they refuse to acknowledge that when combined, the impacts from all these separate “pieces” will be quite serious.

And we do not know if 160 is even the top limit. With squadrons of other types of aircraft also being transferred here, it’s obvious that their aim is to make Whidbey Island into a mega-base. The Navy also could not promise, in their recent EIS, that the air pollution they create would not drop our formerly clean, clear air below national air quality standards. That means our air could be similar to that of large polluted cities. They even piecemealed the air pollution and noise impacts by analyzing only takeoffs and landings, and not flight operations beyond a small area surrounding each runway.

Remember when we first heard about the use of Olympic National Forest as an electronic warfare range, back in September of 2014? Remember how the Navy’s John Mosher stood in front of audiences and told them the number of flights would increase by only 10%? Well guess what – the number of overall flights will be increased by 47%, and 79,000 of those will be Growler flights. In just 7 years, between 2010 and 2017, the number of “touch and go” flights at the Outlying Field at Coupeville alone are increasing from 3,200 to 35,000. That’s over a 1,000 percent increase. John Mosher is in charge of the Navy’s NEPA processes in the Pacific Northwest. He knew he was lying to us when he said there would be only a 10 percent increase.

They violate the law knowingly. A March 2016 Department of Defense procurement report stated that these additional 40 aircraft were not only ordered but in the process of being delivered. That report came out 7 months before the Draft EIS analyzing only 36 of the total 76 new Growlers. We repeat: This. Is. Illegal. And a violation of the public trust. They cannot lawfully make major decisions and commit government funding before initiating a public process under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), but that’s exactly what’s happening. Read this analysis to learn why “segmentation” is against the law.

Now the Forest Service’s Dean Millett is trying to figure out a way to justify that the flight increases are only a small percentage and won’t have a significant impact. The Forest Service has pushed their decision on issuing a permit to the Navy into June. The fact that they’ve delayed their decision from October 2014 to June 2017, plus removed all Navy information from their web site except for the 2014 Environmental Assessment, is evidence that even though the avalanche of public comments has been ignored, they appear to realize the public is on to them and that a decision to grant the permit will be a matter of tortured logic at best.

ONP hiker

On the Olympic Peninsula, San Juan Islands and Whidbey Island, Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray have thrown their constituents under the bus. They avoid answering hard, sometimes anguished questions and send form letters that advocate for “working together” with the Navy. Rep. Rick Larsen thinks the Navy can do no wrong, and has openly jeered the people who’ve complained about noise (This has been recorded on videotape.) Navy supporters throw the “Sound of Freedom” argument at us, as if our unwillingness to support militarization of places like the quietest National Park in the nation is unpatriotic. Rep Derek Kilmer is the only one who’s been responsive at all – he has asked hard questions of agencies, but this only noodles with process and does not address our more substantive questions.

And this does not even address the increase in Navy SEAL war games on our public beaches, state parks, and private lands–how is it legal to close these lands to public access, even temporarily, without a public process for each one? How does a blanket permit to close off our public lands for war games meet the original purpose and mission of these public lands?

It feels hopeless. What can one person do? First, take care of yourself. Don’t allow the stress to overwhelm you; take time off if needed, but allow that to refresh you so that you can come back, choose something you can do to make a difference, no matter how small it may seem, and then do it. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. If we collectively don’t keep the pressure on those who are supposed to represent us and on those for whose salaries and activities we pay dearly, then we give up even the pretense of a democracy. Don’t let this happen.

Say No

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Military contamination of America’s drinking water – How bad is it?

no drinking water

March 3, 2017 – At least 664 sites nationwide to be examined by Department of Defense, including sites at Puget Sound. EPA study finds 6 million Americans in 33 states dealing with contaminated drinking water from perfluorinated chemicals.

This is a long and rather disturbing post. News stories are popping up across the country and beyond, about contamination of aquifers and residential drinking water supplies caused in large part by the US military’s long-term use of Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) for firefighting and training on base hangars and runways. This stuff looks harmless – here’s a closeup:

AFFF closeup

Aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) closeup. It’s used by the military for for training and firefighting.

So that you know what Aqueous Film-Forming Foam looks like in action, (because it’s amazing) here are videos from two foam spill accidents, both from hangar system malfunctions, one at the San Jose (CA) airport and another covering an entire city block of a suburb of San Francisco. The latter was described by news media as a “tidal wave of suds.” Screen shots follow:

AFFF foam covers street

AFFF spill in SF Bay Area, California.

People watching foam spill

People were fascinated by the “tidal wave of suds.” Newscasters mostly made light of it because they didn’t know about its harmful qualities.

Unfortunately, either nobody knew or nobody mentioned that these suds, through which you can watch a bicyclist disappear as he speeds along, contain some of the most toxic and persistent substances ever known, and cause a variety of illnesses including cancer.

Foam-covered bicyclist

Nobody warned the public about the carcinogenic nature of AFFF; the worst caution was, “It can burn your eyes.” As a result, some people played in the suds. In 1997, the US Army Corps of Engineers told other branches of the armed services to treat AFFF as a hazardous material. That’s 20 years ago.

While quantities of AFFF chemicals stored on military bases and in fire trucks along runways seem small, consider the fact that 600 gallons of it would combine with about 20,000 gallons of water to make about 80 tons of fire suppressant. Being hard to clean up and easily airborne, most of it ends up seeping into the ground or flowing into waterways. It doesn’t take much of it to contaminate a large body of clean water.

An article in the Colorado Springs Gazette reported: “An EPA advisory in May warned that water could be harmful if such chemicals surpassed more than 70 parts per trillion – significantly lower than an advisory issued in 2009. Speaking again to the power of the foam, the 3 percent chemical with 97 percent water solution used to fight fires is 300,000 parts per trillion. A tablespoon of the chemical in 20 Olympic-sized pools would easily exceed the EPA threshold.”

Wind catches foam2

AFFF is light and easily windborne.

There’s no getting around the fact that while AFFF really works on fires, one must consider that when entire aquifers get contaminated and cancer strikes children as well as adults, we have to ask ourselves if the cost is too high. According to an online brochure from the Department of Defense’s own program for addressing contamination by AFFF, there is no way to treat groundwater in situ for perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) and very limited options for treating it ex situ, meaning the Navy would have to build a massive and very expensive treatment plant to extract and treat the groundwater, like the one they’re considering building in Bethpage, New York.

ou2map_nwirp_bethpage

Diagram of the contamination plume around a military runway at Bethpage, NY. Deepest contamination found so far is 800 feet underground.

In mid-October 2016, 150,000 gallons of AFFF-contaminated water [the equivalent of more than 16 gasoline tankers] were spilled from an Air Force base in Colorado into a municipal sewage system, thoroughly contaminating it. Military officials said they weren’t required by law to notify downstream users of the water in the contaminant’s path because, as one said, “at this point it is a non-regulated substance.” The base didn’t even sample the wastewater to determine the level of contamination, and did not make the spill public for 6 days. Now an entire aquifer is contaminated, and thousands of people are without reliable drinking water.

bottled water

These perfluorinated chemicals, which are very persistent in the environment, kill slowly. Immune system and liver damage, along with cancers, especially of the kidneys and testicles, plus fetal development problems and low birth weight are a major concern. At a minimum, AFFF chemicals can cause high cholesterol, a precursor to heart disease. A 2011 Army study found a possible link to autism. A European study has found that the replacement chemical for AFFF is already being found in blood and is causing similar health concerns. Hundreds of towns across the country are dealing with this and other military-caused contamination problems.

Groundwater flow in blue arrows

The hard-to-see blue arrows show the direction of travel of a mile-long contaminated groundwater plume at Whidbey Island. Unfortunately, the plume is moving in multiple directions.

This bad news has come home to roost. The Navy has used AFFF for decades at Whidbey Island’s Ault Field and at its outlying landing field (OLF-Coupeville,) a WW2-era runway that’s 3,000 feet too short for Growlers to land on. OLF Coupeville is also smack in the middle of a residential area where many people get their drinking water from private wells. Since November 2016, roughly 2,000 people whose drinking water has been contaminated by a mile-long expanding underground plume coming from the runways, have been forced to turn to bottled water for home use. For awhile, the Navy was only testing wells if residential owners requested it, which meant that only those who were aware of the contamination problems were getting their water tested. This has many people whose wells have not been tested now wondering if their water is safe to drink. Given what is well-known about the movement of toxic plumes through soils and groundwater from similar situations in other areas, that’s a daunting question. In January 2017 the Navy produced a report detailing its plan to test drinking water, but it’s so heavily redacted that it’s not very useful. (See below.) Why would the Navy withhold so much information? It’s not classified, it should all be public knowledge. The Navy isn’t drinking that contaminated water, the people are, and some probably have been drinking it for awhile. The Navy at Whidbey Island gets its drinking water from another source, not groundwater.

And remember, the more Growlers there are near residential areas, and the shorter the runway, the more crash risk there is, and the more need there is to train to fight fires. 

Screen Shot NAVFAC report redacted

Cover of Navy testing plan report.

Redaction, NAVFAC report

One of many redacted pages in the above report.

Earlier this year, the Port of San Diego sued the Navy over a toxic plume that is contaminating San Diego Bay. Literally, the whole bay. In 3 counties in Pennsylvania, drinking water for 70,000 people has been contaminated with the same toxic chemicals as on Whidbey Island, and people are falling ill. Because the Navy was so unresponsive, even refusing to pay for blood tests and ignoring a request from Pennsylvania’s Governor, a state legislator had to publicly urge these victims to sue. What does it say about the Navy’s arrogance when elected representatives are so powerless after exhausting all avenues, that they tell you, in order to get the Navy to do the right thing after it has poisoned your water, you must spend your own money on a lawsuit? What does it say when they redact a report you need to see?

NAVFAC report redacted page

Another redacted page from the above report.

The most disturbing part? They’ve known all along. For decades the military has ignored warnings from its own researchers. According to a news article in Colorado from last October, “Multiple studies dating back to the 1970s found health risks from the foam, and even an agreement 16 years ago between the Environmental Protection Agency and the foam’s main manufacturer did not curtail the Air Force’s usage. Until drinking water tests announced by health officials this year revealed contaminated wells here, the Air Force did almost nothing to publicly acknowledge the danger of the firefighting chemical.”

Although we’d love to give the Navy the benefit of the doubt about possibly not knowing the foam is so toxic, that’s not going to happen, considering the other unacceptable ways they’ve behaved toward their neighbors. They knew AFFF was harmful. A long time ago. In 1991, the Army Corps of Engineers had told Fort Carson to stop using the foam, and in 1997 it told soldiers to treat it as a hazardous material, calling it “harmful to the environment.” There is no way the Navy did not know that AFFF is harmful.

New chemicals to replace PFCs are proving problematic to health. 

A legal settlement reported in the National Law Review would require EPA to create regulations on this contamination by 2019, but if EPA is defunded or eliminated, what then?

Another irony on Whidbey Island is this: In a media interview, Whidbey Island Navy spokesman Mike Welding sought to reassure a nervous public by saying the Navy will remove the contamination, but the Navy knows full well that this cannot be done. He said, “The Navy is going to provide those people with safe drinking water until we can figure out how to remove the contaminant from the water well, filter it out or something like that. It’s something that still needs to be worked out.” Unfortunately, a statement from the Department of Defense’s own “MERIT” program that is easily found on the internet contradicts Mr. Welding: “Currently, there are no in situ technologies and very limited ex situ options to treat soil or groundwater contaminated with PFCs.” This comes from a bulletin that has long been published and distributed to federal and state agencies.

Contaminated water

So why would the Navy mislead people into thinking their water can be decontaminated? Sadly, these are not isolated examples. The plight of hundreds of towns nationwide where drinking water has been contaminated by firefighting foam chemicals called PFCs and PFOAs, are being revealed in a long line of stories, which are most decidedly not fake news.

Let’s look at a few, shall we? The following 19 stories are FROM THE LAST TWO MONTHS ONLY, and do not include anything about recently discovered explosive ordnance in places such as the Padre Island National Seashore in Texas, or the Plum Tree Island National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, or along a popular hiking trail in Hawaii. This is depressing as hell to read and it may make you very angry, but unless people get informed about the magnitude of the problem, many of us and future generations are going to need whatever remaining insurance we have to pay for treating the cancers and other diseases from unwittingly drinking water contaminated by our military.

Grateful thanks to the Center for Public Environmental Oversight for tracking this issue. 

19 stories from January and February 2017, of a few of at least 6 million people whose drinking water has been contaminated by the military:

Feb 22, 2017 – Long Island, New York: Chemicals used by the National Guard in airport firefighting exercises were found in eight of the 41 private water wells they tested. Five of them are above the EPA’s advisory level. Story here.

Feb 19, 2017 – Okinawa, Japan: Since 2002, at least 270 environmental accidents on U.S. Marine Corps bases on Okinawa have contaminated land and local waterways but, until now, almost none of these incidents has been made public. U.S. Marine internal reports highlight serious flaws in training and suggest that the lessons of past accidents have not been effectively implemented. Moreover, recent USMC guidelines order service members not to inform Japanese authorities of accidents deemed “politically sensitive”, raising concerns that many incidents may have gone unreported. Story here.

Feb 19, 2017 – Camp Lejeune, North Carolina: A daughter and her father, who both lived at Camp Lejeune, have been diagnosed cancer within a few months of each other, the cause being the water they drank while living at the base. Story here.

Feb 18, 2017 – Palm Beach, Florida: Several sites tested around Palm Beach International Airport, which was the WW2-era Morrison Field and the Palm Beach Air Force Base during the Korean War, show dangerous levels of contamination. A Trump club is included on a list of sites being investigated by the state. Story here.

Feb 10, Lake Huron, Great Lakes: Toxic chemicals from an abandoned military base have contaminated residential wells and reached Lake Huron; residents are worried about how far the plume will spread. Story here.

Feb 8, 2017 – San Francisco Shipyard: Fake soil tests have delayed the transfer of some parcels of land to the city for development, a Navy spokesman admits. Story here.

Feb 3, 2017 – Laurel Bay, South Carolina: New Navy guidance to medical providers treating those who’ve lived in the Laurel Bay housing area in South Carolina expands the concern over potential exposure to cancer-causing agents, now addressing adult cancer risks as well as pediatric ones. Story here.

Feb 2, 2017 – Three towns in Colorado: An Air Force official revealed to the county commissioners on Thursday that the service has a five-year plan to mitigate water contamination that recently had southern El Paso County residents searching for clean water sources after wells in Security, Widefield and Fountain were tainted by perfluorinated compounds from toxic firefighting foam. A news investigation in October revealed that the Air Force kept the foam in use despite Defense Department studies over the years that showed it was harmful to laboratory animals. Story here.

Feb 2, 2017 – Merrimac, New Hampshire: Residents concerned Army might renege on its agreement to provide safe drinking water to the town after contamination from the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant. Story here.

Jan 26, 2017 – Puget Sound, Washington: The Suquamish Tribe and two environmental organizations have sued the Navy for Clean Water Act violations that would harm salmon. Navy is scraping the hull of a decommissioned aircraft carrier and allowing copper-based paint to fall into bottom sediments. Story here.

Jan 24, 2017 – Four New Jersey towns: Air Force is testing drinking water wells used by private residences in four towns for contamination caused by fire fighting foam. Story here.

Jan 21, 2017 – Oak Harbor, Washington: A mile-long plume of chemical contamination that’s likely carcinogenic has migrated from the Navy base to under the city. Story here.

Jan 19, 2017 – Westfield, Massachusetts: Officials with the Barnes Air National Guard said this week they are taking all appropriate steps to investigate groundwater contamination that may have emanated from the Westfield air base. Story here.

Jan 16, 2017, Long Island, New York: Everyone is applauding passage of a bill that requires the Navy to report to Congress annually on the toxic groundwater plumes emanating from former manufacturing facilities run by the Navy and Northrop-Grumman. Story here.

Jan 12, 2017 – Ivyland, Pennsylvania: For the first time, public information reveals how much of the toxic, unregulated chemical PFOA has made its way into the blood of a local resident, who discovered she had 15 times the national average, and sued the Navy. Story here.

Jan 13, 2017 – Laurel Bay, South Carolina: Military moms fear contaminants at military housing base are giving children cancers. Story here.

Jan 12, 2017 – Niagara County, New York: More than 70 years after World War II-era bombs were manufactured at a site in Niagara County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has discovered soil there still contaminated by TNT and lead, and is proposing to clean it up. Story here.

Jan 10, 2017 – Lansing, Michigan: The state or federal government must now provide alternative water supplies to users whose water is contaminated as a result of substances migrating from government owned and operated properties, under state legislation signed today by the Governor. The legislation was prompted by groundwater and well contamination at the former federal Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda. Story here.

Jan 6, 2017 – many locations: A review of a book by Joseph Hickman, titled “The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers,” describes the open fire pits operated on over 230 U.S. military bases across Iraq and Afghanistan during our wars there. Every kind of waste – plastics; batteries; old ordnance; asbestos; pesticide containers; tires; biomedical, chemical and nuclear waste; dead animals; human feces; body parts; and corpses – was incinerated in them. Review here.

We could go on, with more stories from December 2016 about lead contamination at Bennington, Vermont, the same at Snohomish, Washington, we could talk about veterans drinking contaminated water in Michigan, pollution at a base in South Korea being 500 times normal levels, or with more stories from the US and beyond.

Testing water

A final bit of bumfuzzlery we report is this: On page 3-62 of the Navy’s recent Growler Draft EIS, which was published AFTER all the drinking water warnings came out and deals with Growler aircraft, but not with the toxic firefighting foam for the runways they use, all concerns about drinking water contamination are dismissed with this incredible statement about something that happened almost 20 years ago: “Remediation construction was completed in September 1997, human exposure and contaminated groundwater exposures are under control, and the OUs [Operable Units] at Ault Field and the Seaplane Base are ready for anticipated use (USEPA, 2016e).”

Say again? Human exposure and contaminated groundwater exposures are under control? This statement does not reference which contamination incident is being remediated, so unless a reader catches “1997,” it’d be awfully easy to misinterpret it. Given the weight of the other deficiencies in that Growler Draft EIS and the Navy’s foreknowledge of the drinking water contamination problem long before they published it, it looks like something more deliberate. It makes one wonder: why would the Navy print such a claim, knowing that its interpretation could mislead the public into thinking the contamination is under control, when in fact it’s just the opposite?

1 Where the Birds are - arcgis viewer

A reminder of where the birds are, too.

What can you do? USE YOUR VOICE! Now more than ever, you are needed. Every one of us is. Call a congressperson. Do it every day if you can, or at least 2 or 3 times a week. Write letters – to elected reps, the Navy, and to editors of newspapers. Inundate them all with mail objecting to this injustice, and to the noise, the pollution, the ruination of our local economies. To the fact that our entire national economy is based on war and oil. No single person has a magic cure for what’s ailing us, but together we can force elected officials to listen to us en masse, and to begin to heed our words and do what’s right. And if they refuse to do the right thing, we can keep working to get other people elected who will.

What should you NOT do?  Don’t allow the Navy to fall back on their old strategy, called “Monitored Natural Attenuation,” which is a bureaucratic piece of frippery that means, “Do nothing and let time take care of it.” We need action, and we need new policynow.  So that you’re ready for it, here is the Navy’s web page on Monitored Natural Attenuation, so you can inform yourself on what they are likely to propose for Whidbey and other areas. They’ve even developed software for estimating how long the plume will take as it travels through your drinking water wells.

Monitored Natural Attenuation

Navy diagram of “Monitored Natural Attenuation” of a contaminated groundwater plume.

Maybe it’s not too much to ask of a military that could get as much as an extra $54 billion out of our hides, to clean up after itself, take care of the innocent civilians it has harmed, and protect future generations without poisoning them. We can’t think of a more patriotic thing to do, unless perhaps it’s avoiding the elimination of the very agency that would oversee this massive cleanup on behalf of those current and future generations.

Child with cancer

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Navy’s invisible cost to Whidbey communities: $122 million

Irony alert

February 20, 2017 – Island County residents to Navy: Pay your taxes!  Two Island County Commissioners to Coupeville residents: Go pound sand.

Let’s start right off by saying this story is a bit bizarre. Imagine owning a lot of land and not paying your property taxes, even though you’ve been given a reduced rate. Now imagine that you haven’t paid it for many years. Think you could get away with that? The US Navy did. But nobody knew about it until recently. Well, nobody in the public, that is.

It begs two questions: Why hasn’t the Navy paid what it owes? And: Who let them off the hook?

Six months ago, an ad hoc and diverse group of Island County residents who weren’t aware of the missing tax money formed the Sustainable Economy Collaborative because they were concerned about invisible and unreported costs of Navy Growler operations, such as the steep drops in property values, the Navy’s contamination of residential and commercial drinking water supplies, and the impacts of Navy SEALs using 68 Puget Sound area beaches and state parks for combat training without consulting with the public, and oh we could go on.

Map_of_Washington_highlighting_Island_County.svg

Island County, WA shown in red.

The group’s concern was that economies in communities that depend on one large employer – in this case, the Navy – may appear strong but are actually, as they put it, “quite vulnerable to forces beyond their control.” So they asked some questions, pooled their money, and hired one of the top economists in the country.

The result is a report called Invisible Costs, released this week, that contains a bombshell: Over a 10 year period, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island has cost Island County $122 million dollars. These monies are due to the county, but have never appeared in its coffers. A brief report summary is here.

Burning money

Some of the report’s startling findings include:

1. An estimated $5.7 million per year in sales and property taxes is lost from Island County’s tax revenue because military installations pay no property taxes* and on-base purchases are exempt from sales tax.

2. The Federal government compensates the county for only 20% of the cost of public education of dependents of federal employees.

3. Property values in areas affected by excessive jet noise have declined by nearly 10 million dollars.

4. Island County residents pay $2.3 million per year for health costs due to the Navy’s activities.

This bombshell lands in the middle of a rather large ugly crater from last week: two Island County Commissioners, who have steadfastly refused to consider testimony from Coupeville residents that includes medical documentation of harm from Growler noise, and who have actually treated them with what can only be called contempt and ridicule, refused to approve a $600,000 grant that would allow the town of Coupeville to build a public bathroom and beautify a community park.

Their reason? “Coupeville is anti-Navy.” Yes, they actually said that.

Commissioner Rick Hannold told a reporter, “IT’S A POOR use of tax dollars to support a town that is hostile toward the economic driver of the county.” He also threatened to veto grant funding for a local land trust that has a history of partnering with the county, because its director is a City Councilwoman who is a member of a group that is trying to educate the public on the Navy’s Growler EIS.

Note to Rick: Revenge is unbecoming in a public servant.

Comm Rick Hannold

Island County Commissioner Rick Hannold on right.

Referring to residents’ attempts to be heard about Growler noise, which Commissioner Jill Johnson evidently takes as a personal affront to her own patriotism, she said, “When you punch someone in the face, I don’t think you should be offended when you are punched back.”

We are not making this up. You can read the story here.

Note to Jill: Subtlety, while not your strong suit, would be better than a tantrum.

IC Comm Jill Johnson

Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson

The third Commissioner, Helen Price Johnson, exhibiting her characteristic empathy for constituents, voted to approve the grant but was overruled. Price-Johnson said, “Denying access to local economic development funds shouldn’t be used as a tool to punish people who may have a different perspective on a federal issue.” She also said it’s inappropriate for the two Commissioners to mix their personal feelings about one subject with a funding decision for a completely different matter.

Note to Helen: Thank you for your objectivity.

Comm Helen Price-Johnson

Island County Commissioner Helen Price-Johnson

So here are two of the three Commissioners, Rick Hannold and Jill Johnson, elected public servants who also happen to oversee the Island County budget, telling their Coupeville constituents that they are going to be punished, because they tried to exercise their First Amendment rights in trying to get the Commission’s attention about medical harm from Growler noise.

sarcasm loading

A quick google search reveals that Island County’s budget, which the Commissioners oversee, has not escaped pain from budget cuts in the last several years, to essential services such as police and fire, courts, and others. In fact, in 2011 the Island County sheriff’s office had the distinction of the lowest staffing level in the state based on officers per 1,000 population. So, it’s not like Island County is rolling in dough and doesn’t need any more. And it’s not like they haven’t had other revenue options. Money that was due to them, for example. Every year. Money that might have prevented cuts in essential services. Money they apparently never told their constituents was due.

Does anyone else think it’s time for an investigation? 

Taxes

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