By Stephen Dycus

A cogent exam of the problems all in favour of utilising environmental legislation to nationwide defense actions.

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In the day-to-day routines of most agencies charged with the nation's defense, the environmental laws seem to apply in much the same way they do in other agencies. But there are some spectacular exceptions, as we see in the following chapters. These exceptions provide special insight into the relevant legal and political processes. They also point the way to needed improvements in the law. We are concerned here with two broad types of federal environmental laws. One type requires all federal agencies to carefully analyze and document the environmental impacts of their proposed actions, and to take those impacts into account when deciding whether to go ahead with their proposals.

Whether and how that harm might have been avoided are questions that urgently need answers. The war and its aftermath come at a time of heightened concern about the environmental costs of peacetime preparations for war. With increased use of the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to government records, and with the enactment of environmental laws that require monitoring and disclosure of federal facility activities, the public is better informed and less tolerant of many defense-related environmental injuries that earlier would have been dismissed, without question, as unavoidable.

The courts have often supported the agencies in these claims by deferring to the agencies' own interpretations of their statutory duties, or by refusing to order a halt to statutory violations. The ball is thrown back to Congress, where it frequently rests unplayed. Does all this mean that the environmental laws do not affect the formulation and execution of national security policy? Far from it. In the day-to-day routines of most agencies charged with the nation's defense, the environmental laws seem to apply in much the same way they do in other agencies.

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