Today U.S. Reps. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, and John Salazar, D-Manassa, commended the inclusion of language in the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5658) that prohibits the Department of Defense (DOD) from transporting away from the Pueblo Chemical Depot in the 2009 fiscal year the hazardous wastes left after chemical treatment of mustard agent. Udall, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, was able to include in the bill provisions from the Salazar-Udall bill (H.R. 5574) introduced earlier this year.
The Pueblo Chemical Depot holds 2,611 tons of liquid mustard agent and is part of the DOD's Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program, which is responsible for destroying the chemical weapons stored at Pueblo and at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky. The Chemical Weapons Convention, ratified by Congress in 1997, requires these munitions to be destroyed by 2012. Because of schedule delays, management problems, and funding shortfalls for the ACWA program, the DOD has said that the U.S. will not meet the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty deadline.
Last year, Congress mandated that DOD complete all chemical weapons destruction activities by 2017. The DOD has suggested that a 2017 deadline at Pueblo cannot be reached if wastes are treated on-site. DOD is again studying whether to transport these wastes for treatment off-site, despite approved plans to treat the wastes at the Pueblo Chemical Depot, and despite the fact that construction of an on-site biotreatment facility has already begun. In addition, studies have shown that shipping these wastes would not yield benefits. The community of Pueblo and the Colorado Citizens' Advisory Commission, established by law to represent community interests, have repeatedly expressed their preference for treating the wastes on-site.
"There is no question that the ACWA program has been poorly managed for years," said Rep.Udall. "But the people of Pueblo shouldn't have to pay for DOD's mistakes. Pueblo needs the jobs that the biotreatment process will provide, and the community deserves the certainty that clean-up will be completed in a timely fashion. This process should not be further delayed. The legislation John and I secured sends an important message to the Department of Defense - that Congress won't sit by and let DOD drag this process along, risking further delays, ballooning costs, and failing to meet the federal government's obligation to complete chemical weapons destruction by 2017.
"There is no question that the best possible solution for the people of Pueblo is the on-site treatment of waste," said Rep. Salazar. "I commend Mark for securing this important language in the Defense Authorization bill. Our bill prevents the Department of Defense from shipping waste off-site, making sure jobs stay in Pueblo and keeps the process on track."
To contact the Udall press office, call Tara Trujillo at 720-333-3425 or Heather Fox at 303-725-6595.