Friday, June 5, 2009

NOPE - Community Input Ignored by the Navy

Response to “Community involvement appreciated at Earle” by Howard Snow, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Facilities
Tuesday, June 2, 2009, Letter to the editor in the Asbury Park Press.

Claiming the public’s input was appreciated and a necessary part of the development of the Draft/Final Environmental Impact Statement and The Record of Decision documents regarding the Laurelwood Housing at Naval Weapons Station Earle; Deputy Assistant Secretary Howard Snow, is insulting the public. Unfortunately, the letter only proves the Navy cannot be trusted; it gives lip service to the democratic process, it fills costly documents with meaningless rhetoric, has little regard for public concerns, and continues with the wasteful expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

To insinuate the public misunderstood the term “unimpeded access” and assumed it meant, “open base” is another indication of the insufferable attitude of superiority the Navy has tried to hide behind a wall of community cooperation.

Monmouth county residents, legislative leaders, Neighbors Opposed to Privatization at Earle (NOPE) voiced their grave concerns regarding the Navy’s planned action to house civilians in the middle of NWS Earle at the Navy prescribed “Scoping” all comments were met with blank stares or undisguised bored tolerance.

Thirteen hundred concerned citizens took the time to participate in the comment period after the issuing of the Draft EIS only to have their concerns lumped together and dismissed with canned, irrelevantly vague responses.

A quantitative analysis was developed and alternative approaches to contract termination were suggested. In 2002 a $29m buyout offer was initiated by the developer, and was turned down by the Navy. Why? This stubborn resistance to acknowledge an error in judgment regarding a 1988 contract and the inability to adapt to a new post 9/11 world, begs one to question the motivation of those responsible for the safety of this country’s Naval facilities and personnel.

Hierarchal leadership is great in battle and in maintaining discipline; however, this type of leadership is archaic and ineffective when dealing with non-military issues, i.e. the Laurelwood housing issue.

NOPE is NOT going away

To clarify some questions asked of our leadership team in private discussions, NOPE is FAR from finished in the grassroots battle to prevent civilian Laurelwood housing at NWS Earle, and we encourage our supporters to keep up the fight. By no means does our mission end with the Navy's Record of Decision in late May to make way for an unimpeded access road to the homes; the plan is still 15 months from fruition - lots of time.

Rather, we will step up the publicity campaign and are contemplating legal action for the Navy's clear failure to comply with National Environmental Policy Act requirements for its "environmental" (covers more than issues about the ecological "environment") study of the plan. To be sure, NAVFAC, the agency that put forth the incomplete EIS on which the Navy based its decision, fails to include any tangible threat assessment or financial projections among other shortfalls, deeming it an inadequate, noncompliant document.

NOPE applauds Colts Neck government's resolution to file suit to stop the Navy from going thru with its plan, and encourages Tinton Falls Borough Council and Mayor-Elect Mike Skudera to file suit as well. Stripping away the educational issue, both towns have much at stake in terms of security as host towns of one of our nation's largest military weapons depots. We're literally sitting on a powderkeg.

As always we welcome your thoughts and opinions and appreciate your support. In the meantime:
  • Call Senators Menendez (202.224.4744 in Washington, 973.645.3030 in Newark) and Lautenberg (202.224.3224, 973.639.8700) each day and ask why they have been silent about this issue and how it will devastate New Jersey.
  • Contact Gov. Corzine (609.292.6000) and ask why he's been silent too
  • Contact your federal (i.e. Chris Smith, Rush Holt) and state (i.e. Senator Beck, Monmouth County Freeholders) and ask them to keep up the fight
  • Stay posted to NOPE's blog for daily updates, including public meetings considered for July and August
  • Consider a donation to NOPE as we are a grassroots organization and in need of funds, particularly if we file legal action
  • Volunteer your time to us, either spreading the NOPE message to your friends, relatives and family or volunteering any skills that might prove valuable (i.e. lawyers who can give a few hours to the mission, writers or publicists with contacts in the media)


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Laurelwood resident safety and actuarial estimates

This point, from Fulton Wilcox - the driving force behind NOPE's business case study of the Laurelwood housing issue, considers the perspective of potential civilian tenants at Earle, which transitions well from yesterday's thoughts about MP safety of base personnel.


One public input that the Navy did not comment on was my query regarding
the explosive safety and routine activities such as explosives disposal on
the prospective residents of Laurelwood. Safety is distinct from security, because
it is inherent to munitions management rather than on terrorism.

Essentially, the EIS conveys the story that if Laurelwood residents,
guests and services people live and transit Earle outside explosive safety
arcs, they must be safe from the effects of explosions. On the other hand,
being fairly near large explosions, planned or accidental, is a shock, as
many experienced during the recent NWS Earle "controlled burns."

Even outside safety arcs, some explosions might do physical damage -
blow out windows, generate long-range stray shrapnel, etc. From the perspective of
Laurelwood's viability, the "shock and awe" effects from planned and accidental
explosions themselves could pose risks of injury and death.

Therefore, in my comment on the DEIS, I very specifically asked
for actuarial estimates of the impact in Laurelwood residents of
explosions, computed based on DOD Explosives Safety Board engineering rules. DOD
has the means, including software-implemented tools, to create such
quantified estimates. However, the Navy aligned my safety query into the one size
fits all security response, without responding to my request (see below) of
the estimated effects on Laurelwood residents and others using the roadway
of planned and accidental explosions.

Effects short of injury still could pose liability and commercial
acceptance issues - who wants to live near a blasting site?

If, as some suppose, technological evolution has left the Navy with
a growing amount of "slow moving" munitions inventory at Earle, the number
of controlled burns might need to increase to get rid of those obsolete weapons.

The Navy did a superficial job of addressing comments on the DEIS, and
in this case it offered no response at all. I mention this lapse in case it
is helpful to future communications or litigation.


Text of response regarding "Safety"

In the NWS Earle mission context, "safety" can be described as keeping the people safe from the munitions. Given the law of large numbers (and the large amount of munitions at NWS Earle), it is simply a matter of time untils ome of the munitions explode or burn. Department of Defense actuarial tables and engineering rules embodied in predictive software such as Safer help quantify that risk and the consequences of explosion.

However, the draft EIS implies that the tenants in Laurelwood will be "safe"from the effects of munitions explosion because Laurelwood housing is physically outside "explosive safety arcs," as are route alignments 1-3. If route alignment 4 is chosen (which it was), the draft EIS states that the NWS Earle commander will move the relevant munitions in order to shift an existing explosives safety arc away from the road. Being outside the "arcs" is certainly a threshold requirement, but not the whole story in dealing with civilian housing risk.

Explosive safety arcs are the equivalent of "100 year flood" boundaries, and blast or projectile fragments will in fact go beyond the safety arc, just as there have been a lot of floods above the 100 year level. Also, as evidenced in a recent terrorist vehicle bomb attack on a hotel in Pakistan, what was probably a 2,000 pound or so bomb blew out windows in CNN News headquarters two miles from the explosion, far beyond the 1,250 foot "arc."

What the EIS should include are the actuarial projections for Laurelwood residents that would result if Navy experts use DOD analytic tools and techniques to answer the question "what are the expected number of deaths and injuries among those living at Laurelwood over thirty years from munitions stored in the 300 or so storage points and in temporary or open storage or in trucks or train cars?" That expected value may be small, but it is not zero. Note that some munitions "cook" rather than explode (or do both), and another question is whether Laurelwood might have to be evacuated and for how long because of dangerous fumes.

The EIS is therefore not satisfactory in quantifying the safety impact of munitions handling on Laurelwood residents

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Snow Is Way Off Base

It is sadly ironic this morning that on the same day the signor of the Navy's "Record of Decision" on Laurelwood housing insultingly spin-doctored (in an Asbury Park Press editorial) his decision to open Weapons Station Earle to civilian housing, we also learn of a great tragedy in Little Rock, Arkansas, where, according to Associated Press, "a man upset with the U.S. military drove to a recruiting center and opened fire on two soldiers, fatally wounding one."

Monday's shooting at the Arkansas military recruiting center only backs NOPE's thesis all along that domestic terrorism is here to stay, and underscores one of the more overshadowed concerns of our argument: the safety of the personnel at NWS Earle.

Notwithstanding the cyberattack on Earle's computer system around the time of 9/11, to our knowledge there hasn't been a "major catastrophic event" at Earle. This seems to be the view of naysayers to NOPE's security concern and seems to be the lynchpin of the Honorable Mr. Snow's argument that the Navy will responsibly meet its "mission readiness and capability, which includes the safety of its personnel, their families and our installations."

(In other words, nothing has happened at Earle since the 1940s, so nothing will ever happen quickly have we forgetten 9/11, Fort Dix Six, Oklahoma City bombings, recently planned attack on NY temple by domestic terrorists, etc.)

NOPE argues that civilian housing at NWS Earle would expose the base's MPs and Myers contract security guards to unnecessary harm. All it takes, as the Little Rock incident would attest, is one malcontent to kill soldiers. In a perfect world the Navy's Environmental Impact Statement would have included candid interviews with base personnel, whom we suggest would be adamently opposed to policing base civilian houses but are realistically rendered silent and unwilling participants to this Laurelwood mess.

Let Earle's security forces do their job (to protect the Earle base) without worrying about someone shooting at them or attempting to cause bodily harm. As NOPE has argued all along, Earle's mission is to replenish ammunition and supplies to the Atlantic fleet, not to serve as a de facto police force to 300 homes full of civilians.

Mr. Snow should reverse his poor decision before introducing worlds of harm to Earle and us.