June 19, 2012
Environmental lawsuit filed against U.S. Navy’s plan for a second explosives handling wharf at Bangor nuclear submarine base
TACOMA – Today, two groups took action to halt construction of a second explosives handling wharf at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor until the public is fully informed about the serious environmental risks of the $715 million project. The groups filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tacoma alleging that Navy secrecy surrounding the project is a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.
The new wharf would be built close to the existing wharf where submarines dock for loading and unloading of Trident missiles. Plaintiffs are concerned about harm to birds, salmon, seals, whales and other marine life from drilling up to 1,250 pilings and covering an area of water the size of six football fields in ecologically sensitive Hood Canal.
According to Kathy George, Seattle environmental attorney for the plaintiffs, “Before the Navy spends hundreds of millions of tax dollars on this project, Congress and the public are entitled to a complete and open discussion of the risks and less harmful alternatives.”
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action member Glen Milner stated, “The Navy’s environmental analysis essentially says ‘Don’t worry, trust us.’ But the National Environmental Policy Act was enacted to ensure all significant environmental impacts are disclosed.”
The Navy’s expressed purpose for its $715 million second explosives handling wharf is to support the “Life Extension Program” for the Trident D-5 missiles and Trident strategic weapons on the submarines at Bangor. The Life Extension Program involves the upgrade of guidance systems, rocket motors in the missiles and other components, which requires additional missile handling operations in Hood Canal. The Navy announced its decision to proceed with the wharf project on May 18. The wharf will take four years to build.
Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility member Steven Gilbert said, “As major disasters such as Fukushima become more common, our nation must decrease the potential risk to our environment instead of increasing it, as with the second explosives handling wharf in Hood Canal.”
The operation of a second explosives handling wharf would double the amount of explosives handled at one time in Hood Canal. The net explosive weight of the two wharves is equal to 7.4 million pounds of TNT in the form of rocket propellant in the missiles. The propellant is classified as an HC/D 1.1 explosive, more volatile than TNT, and is capable of detonating upon impact.
Plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit include: Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, and individual, Glen Milner.
Read the Seattle Times article about the lawsuit.
Read the Kitsap Sun article about the lawsuit.