FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Person: Erica Benton (510)-928-8247, Rev. Deborah Lee (415) 297-8222
Press Conference & Earth Day Action:
Bay Area Organizations, Scholars and Environmentalists Demand Halt of Military Build-up in Guam:
Environmentally Destructive and Costly
Date: Thursday, April 22, 2010
Time: 10:30 am
Location: St. Patrick’s Church, 756 Mission Street, San Francisco
Features: Music, Visuals, expert and community speakers:
Speakers and Press Contacts:
Rima Miles, Refaluwasch Carolinian from Saipan, member of One Love Oceania
Erica Benton, musician & member of Famoksaiyan, a Chamorro and Guam advocacy group
Yoko Fukumura, Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence
Rev. Deborah Lee , Women for Genuine Security
Aileen Suzara, Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity
Spokeperson from POWER
Center for Biological Diversity, Miyo Sakashita
Supporting Groups: Women for Genuine Security, Famoksaiyan (Chamorro and Guam/Marianas Advocacy Group), One Love Oceania, American Friends Service Committee, POWER, Movement Generation, Sonoma County Peace Crane Project, Center for Biological Diversity.
April 5, 2010, SAN FRANCISCO, CA* – On April 22, Earth Day, several groups will gather outside St. Patrick’s Church in San Francisco demanding a halt to US military expansion on the Pacific island of Guam. Their voices join recent EPA concerns that the Department of Defense’s plan will have devastating impacts on 71 acres of coral reef and fails to come into compliance with the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act. The plan will threaten the habitat of thousands of species of marine life, including endangered species such as green sea turtle, hawksbill sea turtle and spinner dolphin. At a time of economic recession and mounting national debt, the US base expansion on Guam will be one of the largest buildups in recent history, costing US taxpayers an estimated $9 Billion. On Earth Day, San Franciscans will witness the release of a letter signed by 70 environmentalists, scholars, community and religious leaders who are calling on the White House and the Council on Environmental Quality to halt the build-up.
The Environmental Protection Agency, in its evaluation of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), gave the plan the worst possible rating, calling it “inadequate” and “insufficient,” and stating that the impacts of dredging on the high quality coral reefs of Apra Harbor “are of sufficient magnitude that EPA believes the action should not proceed as proposed.” The proposed build up, would bring 79,000 more people to Guam, increasing the population of 173,456 by 47%. According to the EPA, the plan fails to adequately address the impact of this population increase on the water supply and wastewater treatment on Guam, creating adverse public health impacts.
Environmental research organizations, such as the Center for Biological Diversity stated in their public comment: “The Navy has failed to meet the statutory requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and regulations of the Council on Environmental Quality…. because it improperly limited the scope of the DEIS and failed to include sufficient information on alternatives, impacts to cultural resources and social justice issues, and Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”
“Our communities in Guam are counting on us to be a voice for them in Washington,” says Erica Benton, a local bay area resident with family ties to Guam and a member of Famoksaiyan, a group which voices concerns for Guam and Chamorros in the diaspora. “The island is an unincorporated territory of the US, which basically means they cannot vote for US presidents and only have a non-voting delegate in Congress. We hope our leaders here in California take a stand with us, and for the environment.”
“This Earth Day, we have to address that the military is one of the biggest polluters on the planet, and the largest contributor to greenhouse gases. The massive build up on Guam directly contradicts efforts to protect our environment from global warming,” says Reverend Deborah Lee, a member of Women for Genuine Security, the local chapter of a global women’s network that works to protect the health and safety of communities around US military bases. “The US military has an enormous carbon footprint which must be addressed for the health of local communities and the security of our entire planet.”
As the largest Chamorro population outside of Guam resides in California, groups are calling on California Congressional Representatives and President Obama to:
1) Halt of the current plans for the build up;
2) Before the DOD goes forward, require a rewrite of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, with an appropriate public comment period of at least 6 months. The new DEIS should address socioeconomic and cultural impacts on local communities, clearly outlined mitigation of environmental impacts and greenhouse gases, and impacts to self-determination. The process of writing the DEIS should be transparent and include participation of community and environmental watchdog groups.
3) Require the DOD to clean up existing contamination and toxic sites, on and off-base, caused by military operations on Guam, before any base expansion projects are considered;
The San Francisco Earth Day action takes place across the street from the EPA’s Earth Day Festival 11-3 pm at Yerba Buena Garden. The action is also in solidarity with rallies that will be held in Washington DC and Okinawa, Japan this Sunday, April 25th in protest of a new US base in Okinawa which already holds 30 bases. 100,000 people are expected to rally in Okinawa this Sunday. The Guam build-up plan includes the proposed transfer of 8,000 Marines from Futenma Air Station in Okinawa after decades of local protests.
At 30 miles long and around 8 miles wide, Guam is currently home to over 100 toxic sites. The island and surrounding regions use as a military dumping ground since World War II is evidenced today in the record high cancer rates among the population. The military currently occupies 1/3 of the island and now proposes additional land takings. Guam has lived under US administration since 1898 and remains a US colony, one of 16 non-self-governing territories listed by the United Nations.
The proposed Defense Department plan involves moving 8,600 Marines and their 7,000 dependents from Futenma Marine Air Station (Okinawa, Japan) to Guam by 2014; the acquisition of 2,200 additional acres for military use, including live fire training, the expansion of Andersen Air Force Base, and the dredging of 71 acres of vibrant coral reef in Apra Harbor.
Large numbers of contracted workers would also be sent to actualize the Guam buildup, boosting the U.S. territory’s population by 45 percent — adding another 79,000 people to its current 180,000 residents. (Greenwire Feb 25).
Since the release of the DEIS on November 30, 2009, community groups in Guam have been organizing to have their concerns be heard. One such organization, the We Are Guåhan coalition, recently collected over 10,000 signatures to petition President Obama to step off the base and hear the concerns of the local people when he visits there in June. We have not been able to say yes or no to this (buildup),” says Jon Blas, resident of Guam and member of We Are Guåhan. “Hawaii said no. California said no. But we were never given the opportunity. It’s not fair, especially because it is looking like this is going to hurt us more than help us.” We Are Guåhan’s growing membership felt that a strong message must be sent to Washington DC. The petition states: “The military buildup will permanently change our island and our lives. The needs of all Guam’s people must come first, for this island is our home. It is critical that President Obama hear our concerns.”