Monday, October 19, 2009

Legislature denied funds to analyze EIS

Legislature denied funds to analyze EIS

Tuesday, 20 October 2009 04:24
by Theresa Hart | Variety News Staff

THE Department of Interior has turned down an emergency request from the Guam Legislature to pay for expert analysis of the voluminous and highly-secretive Environmental Impact Statement draft presented two weeks ago to the body by the Joint Guam Project Office.

In seeking technical assistance for the more than 8,000 page draft document which the legislature was not permitted to review or provide feedback on, Sen. Judi Guthertz asked Interior Secretary Tony Babauta to assist Guam in a review of the EIS via a grant.

Babauta’s response was that federal regulations prohibit Office of Insular Affairs from using grant funds for salaries and other expenses of state legislatures, tribal councils or similar local governmental bodies…whether incurred for purposes of legislation or executive direction. Consequently, we cannot provide the requested funding,” said Babauta in his letter to Guthertz.

Meanwhile, according to Guthertz, the governor’s office has hired a consulting firm to review the draft statement.

“Given the magnitude and complexity of the military build-up program, the Office of the Governor has retained a team of firms that specialize in developing the plans, policies and implementation actions needed to support Guam's efforts associated with the military buildup,” according to a statement appearing on the recently launched website.

The governor’s office listed among advisors, the group responsible for overseeing the development of the EIS for the military, Matrix Design Group as well as Navigant Consulting and M2D2, the firm hired to do the Port Authority of Guam community outreach program and web portal.

Guthertz further contends some Washington D.C. officials involved in the military buildup are taking advantage of divisions within the government of Guam to deny the public information that is vital, if Guam residents are to fully understand the impact of the $15 billion buildup.

“In fact, I believe that some of our Washington visitors have already witnessed the local divisions over the buildup and are now taking advantage of us,” said the lawmaker.

The divisions and the secrecy of some parties, are not helping the interests of the people of Guam, imputed Guthertz.

Guthertz held an oversight hearing last week to address the issues surrounding the pending military realignment of troops from Okinawa to Guam. But, administration officials either dodged the hearing or refused to disclose what they knew about the draft report under threat of federal penalties because of non-disclosure forms they signed in order to review the military planning documents.

No comments: