US Military Draft EIS For CNMI Not In Compliance With Law

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Consultants: Statement ‘lacks alternatives, impact analysis, mitigation’

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 1, 2015) – The consultants hired by the administration to review the Draft Environmental Impact Statement said the military must also follow the law.

Nicholas Yost of Dentons US LLC, the head of the team of experts reviewing the DEIS, said based on their initial findings, the document is not in compliance with the basic principles of the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA.

Yost, Matthew Adams of Dentons and Environmental Science Associates biological director Jim Keany on Monday met with members of House Committee on Foreign and Federal Affairs chaired by Rep. Angel Demapan.

Yost told lawmakers that their goal is to ensure that the military comply with the NEPA.

"No one is above the law and that includes the military," he said. "They are not above the law and they too must follow the law. We will ensure that the military sees that and that they will come into compliance."

Adams said the DEIS lacks alternatives, impact analysis, mitigation and public input.

Demapan, in an interview, said the meeting gave him and other lawmakers hope.

"We’re a little bit more hopeful that our concerns will be better formulated now that we have experts on our side," he added.

"Even in the preliminary review, [the consultants] already see how inadequate the draft EIS is, and that is troubling for us because we expect the U.S. military to be very forthcoming and honest with the people of the CNMI. Can you imagine what can happen next as our experts go deeper and further into the process to disclose more details that we deserve to know? They [the military] are making decisions that could drastically change the way we live here and for us to find out that they are not forthcoming with us is troubling."

He said the military "used the same tactics with the people of Guam when they [the military] tried to build a base in a Chamorro village which the people of Guam opposed."

Demapan added, "You would think that after the military’s experience with Guam that they would learn, but it appears that they didn’t learn and they are treating us the same way and with the same tactics that they imposed on the people of Guam. But we will remain vigilant and we will fight for our position. With Dentons now with us we are more hopeful than before that we would be able to defend our case against the U.S. military."

Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero, for his part, said:

"Now we will see the truth in this DEIS. There are so many hidden agendas in this report that the military doesn’t want to share with us. I applaud Dentons for taking this project. They are working and getting out more details. I am hoping too that the governor stands firm in sending our message to the military that we don’t support the kind of activity that they are proposing and we want them here because it will be in the best interests of the community and not just theirs."

The team of consultant also met with the mayors of Tinian and the Northern Islands as well as officials of the Commonwealth Ports Authority, the Marianas Visitors Authority and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce.

The team, which will work with various executive branch agencies and offices, left the island on Tuesday but will be back in July for the public hearings.

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