Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB) has joined communities across the country in urging President-elect Barack Obama to make environmental protection a priority within the Department of Defense (DoD). In a joint letter to the Obama transition team, the groups urge the new administration to create a high-level position at the Pentagon with responsibility for energy, environment and sustainability policies.

The letter, which has nearly 100 signatories, comes from current and former residents of communities impacted by defense activities, current and former defense employees and military personnel, and organizations that work with these constituencies.  Their health, properties, and communities have been affected by military pollution.

This letter cites years of Bush policies that favored DoD to the detriment of the environment.  In recent years the military has consistently pushed – with some success – for legislative exemptions from environmental laws, contested EPA cleanup orders, and undermined EPA’s efforts to set risk levels for military toxins.

Upon taking office, Bush demoted the DOD environment position to an Assistant Deputy Undersecretary post.  The groups ask that the Defense Department create a high-level position within the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Undersecretary level.  The appointee should have a clear commitment of protecting public health and the environment and building a sustainable future.

Environmental leaders within DoD, the groups say, must recognize that the military is not above the law and should be subject to environmental regulation by U.S. EPA, states, tribal, and local governments like any other entity.  Existing public involvement strategies – like the local Restoration Advisory Board for Badger Army Ammunition Plant – should be strengthened and expanded to assure that affected communities are involved in both local and national policy decisions.

CSWAB was organized in 1990 by neighbors of the closing Badger Army Ammunition Plant and has been a driving force in the successful cleanup and conversion of the plant to conservation and sustainable agriculture.

Grassroots Letter on Defense Environmental Appointments