Thursday, January 7, 2010

NJ Senate committee backs Earle financial, security study!

Good news from the New Jersey State House...the Senate's Community and Urban Affairs Committee passed by a 4-0 vote Senate bill S3017! This is wonderful news for NOPE, the tireless efforts of Senator Beck, the assembly and NOPE's legislative liaison Elaine Mann, and the 1,500-plus supporters who had signed our white postcards since our October 27, 2009 rally, urging passage of this measure. This proves that our community's voice does count and that NOPE indeed has mettle.

If passed by the full senate and signed by Governor Corzine on Monday, S3017 (the companion Assembly measure A4159 passed last month) would prevent the NJ Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Transportation (DOT) from issuing permits to the U.S. Department of Navy for proposed construction of an unimpeded access road to Laurelwood houses inside Weapons Station Earle.

The combination of data from any State Treasurer study plus the ongoing and separate security and financial assessment conducted by the U.S. Senate's Goverment Accountability Office (GAO) will prove extremely valuable in proving the merits of NOPE's contention that unimpededly opening NWS Earle to civilian tenants for the next 30 years poses a security, financial and environmental recipe for disaster to the Navy itself and our communities. (See our 8-page Business Case analysis for more details on cost dynamics of the ill-conceived Navy plan.) The studies, combined, also will produce what the Navy -- by law -- was required to, but did not, provide to the U.S. citizens last year when the DoN rolled out what in the end was a non-compliant Final-Environmental Impact Statement (F-EIS).

Let's be clear. Contrary to what some opponents (namely a local veterans group and affordable housing advocate) contested in audio comments reviewed from the State House today, S3017 DOES NOT change the U.S. Navy's plans or decide the eventual outcome of the 300-unit Laurelwood housing complex...or, for that matter, who can occupy the homes. Rather, the legislation will rightfully give New Jersey's decision-makers, homeland security and emergency response officials and surrounding communities the missing pieces about security requirements and financial ramifications of a DoN proposal rife with questions and pitfalls.

And, from NOPE's perspective, S3017 would more or less put even more pressure on the DoN to recognize that it must, by contract, engage in a buyout of the Laurelwood lease if it fails to provide Laurelwood's developer access to build the road to the homes by May 1 (the expiration of the Navy's "in-lease" on the 52-year housing contract), as Supplemental Agreement 43 suggests in the Laurelwood leasing contract.

The point being...NOPE will CONTINUE TO FIGHT for the better of the community until the Laurelwood contract is voided or bought out and the Laurelwood houses are razed. Putting ANY civilians in the middle of a high-security munitions depot is a painfully bad idea and will have far too big a detriment on our communities, unless we continue to raise objections.

Let's keep up the fight. It's a battle worth waging!

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