Wednesday, December 03, 2008

EPA worried about fund lack for buildup

Wednesday, 03 December 2008 00:00 by Zita Y. Taitano | Variety News Staff

The U.S. Environmental Protection is concerned about the federal government’s lack of commitment to fund programs to address the impact of the military buildup on the civilian community.

Enrique Manzanilla, regional director of EPA’s Communities and Ecosystems Division, noted that the National Defense Reauthorization Act for 2009 does not include pertinent funding for Guam.

The act instead contains a provision that requires a memorandum of understanding between Guam and federal agencies simply to “determine how to fund the impacts.”

“From a very practical point of view, we believe it is very unlikely that the government of Guam or other federal agencies will acquire all the resources to adequately address impacts that go beyond the military fence lines in Guam,” Manzanilla said in a letter to David Bice, executive director of the Joint Guam Program Office.

“The result could be “two Guams”-- one that’s better off within the fence line, and one that worse off outside the fence line,” Mazanilla said.

Manzanilla recalled that during a September meeting with the Federal Regional Council in San Francisco, it was noted through JGPO representative Caroleen Toyama that the DoD was expecting other federal agencies to assist in the mitigation of the overall impact of the buildup.

He further explained that the interagency discussions on overall funding are “lagging significantly” behind the project planning of the buildup, despite the time frame to begin construction in 2010.

Manzanilla said ith the change in the administration, there is uncertainty with regard to the funding requests from federal agencies for their 2010 budgets.

“Even for agencies which have included specific requests for the Guam military buildup, without strong DoD support for additional resources, we are not confident that the current approach will achieve a meaningful result,” he said.

He pointed out that if the agencies involved, such as DoD, the Department of the Interior, EPA, island governments and other interested agencies, get together, they can develop a strategy that would bring better and positive results not only for the Guam community but also DoD.

“The Guam military buildup is a high priority for EPA, especially in ensuring that the buildup benefits all of Guam. Without a well thought-out funding strategy led by DoD, the societal and environmental impacts from the military buildup may end up exacerbating already disparate conditions on Guam. We believe there’s still an opportunity to make a positive difference,” Manzanilla said.

Manzanilla is asking for a meeting with JGPO on the matter. No particular date has been set.

JGPO spokesman Capt. Neil Ruggiero said JGPO has quarterly interagency meetings with GovGuam and other agencies about the buildup and the civilian impact is among the key areas of discusssion.

The issue at hand has sparked the interest of Sens. Rory Respicio and Judy Guthertz, who have sent a letter to Gov. Felix Camacho asking him to look into the matter.

“What we need is an omnibus appropriation from the U.S. Congress for the government of Guam to prepare for the buildup,” Guthertz said.

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