Wednesday, July 22, 2009

NOPE challenges U.S. EPA. Supporters, now it is YOUR turn...

Last week, NOPE sent a certified letter to U.S. EPA Region 2 "Strategic Planning" chief John Filippelli (and cc:d to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson) requesting that the EPA withdraw or amend its response to the Laurelwood Housing EIS (Environmental Impact Statement), and encourages its supporters to contact Mr. Filippelli or Ms. Jackson regarding this matter.

This request stems from our view that the Navy mislead commenters by its unfounded insistence that, to quote the Draft EIS, “The Navy would be in breach of the lease agreement if unimpeded access is not provided at the termination of the in-lease period.” (For those new to the case, the "in-lease" is expected to end next September, at which point the 30-year "out-lease" kicks in, allowing the developer to rent the homes to civilians thru 2040.)

The Navy’s mistaken assertion that it would be in “breach” was inimical to the D-EIS review, since commenters relied on that assertion to dismiss as infeasible all “No Action” options (i.e. to not provide unimpeded access to the homes). After obtaining full-text copies of the Laurelwood lease, and in particular Supplemental Agreement 43, however, we were surprised to learn that there is no “breach” if the Navy does not provide “unfettered access.” Supplemental Lease Agreement 43 states:
"Should the Government fail to provide unimpeded access at the termination
of the Inlease, the Government shall terminate the Lease and compensate the
Lessee in an amount equal to the Lessee's right to use or occupy [through to
scheduled teardown in 2040]."
Note that the word “fail” does not reflect an obligation on the Navy’s part to provide “unfettered access.” Under Supplemental Agreement 43, the Navy is at complete liberty either to provide “unimpeded access” or to let the contract proceed to its default outcome of buyout. Buyout makes the need for “unimpeded access” moot, because the Navy as owner of the Laurelwood leasehold improvements would have many options as to how to use or to remove those leasehold improvements, without building a new road.

Given that it had no such contractual “obligation,” but merely an elective option, the Navy misconstrued its purpose as well as failing to consider its range of feasible actions. Accordingly, we ask the EPA to withdraw its statement and go back to the drawing board for a proper assessment of the situation. The "No Action Alternative" is the only one of the five Navy plans for Laurelwood access that would have zero impact on the environment, its mission and the surrounding Earle communities.

Here is the contact information for Mr. Filippelli (212.637.3754 or and Ms. Jackson (202.564.4700 or, as provided by the U.S. EPA's employee directory search. Please express your concerns about the validity of the Laurelwood EIS and how the EPA responded.

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