The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is challenging the Army’s plans to disband the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) for Wisconsin’s Badger Army Ammunition Plant. The EPA’s September 12 letter to the U.S. Army Environmental Command says that the Army’s actions are inconsistent with federal law and that removal of seated members is unjustified.
“Based upon our understanding of the RAB rule, 32 CFR Part 202, there is no requirement for existing members to re-apply,” EPA officials wrote. “Nor is there any justification for removing currently participating members due to multiple members representing the same community interest group, or limiting member’s participation through term limits.”
The EPA also disagreed with the Army’s plans to select new co-chairs, develop new operating procedures, and require representatives of local municipalities to re-apply for membership.
“Furthermore, the (Badger) RAB currently has operating procedures and co-chairs. The existing (Badger) RAB operating procedures specifically state that no member shall be subject to term limits,” EPA wrote. “Lastly, we are aware that the local governments want to be part of the RAB and it is our understanding that all of the following local governments want to have a representative on the RAB – Merrimac, Sumpter, Town and Village of Prairie du Sac and Sauk County. We believe it would be important to allow these entities to participate on the RAB.”
The Department of Defense has used RABs since 1994 to encourage collaboration between communities, government agencies, tribes and installation officials on cleanup decisions, and in particular to offer the public an opportunity to influence cleanups at military bases. RABs have represented more than 300 communities around active and closing bases as well as formerly used defense sites, and are co-chaired by the installation and a community member. The Badger RAB was organized nearly 20 years ago as one of five pilot sites for the federal program.
“The Army’s actions at Badger threaten the national RAB program by undermining the rights of communities and tribes to participate in decisions that affect their environment and health,” said Laura Olah, Executive Director of Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger (CSWAB), the organization that petitioned the EPA. “This has to be challenged.”
The EPA said it will not participate in the proposed Badger RAB reorganization until the Army is able to address all of its concerns. In the meantime, the RAB continues to meet on a regular basis. The next public meeting is scheduled for November 29 at 6:30 pm at the Town of Prairie du Sac Hall.