Offshore oil drilling constrained by military toxics dumping grounds.

Marine Photobank trash

Outer Continental Shelf hero Richard Charter sent us a rather depressing article. (excerpted below) It seems that proposed oil operations off the New Jersey coast will be constrained by some very reckless chemical weapons dumping done by our military.

This is a sad comment on how the military has been able to run roughshod over our environment with impunity. Unfortunately this behavior seems to be embedded in our governance – as evidenced by the high percentage of Superfund sites that are of military origin, and most recently in the Supreme Court case to determine if the Executive branch can exempt the military from environmental law (based on the Navy’s desire to use sonar without mitigation).

I believe that the military has a lot to answer for prior to being allowed to despoil our planet without oversight or responsibility. Surprises like the New Jersey ocean dumping sites do little to convince me that the Army or Navy are the “environmental stewards” that they claim in their respective PR material.

Of course military training is critical – any sovereign nation needs a prepared military. But allowing the military to determine the risk-economies of their own actions is irresponsible governance at best, and as the New Jersey dumping sites illustrate, potentially suicidal.

Hopefully the Supreme Court justices are taking this into consideration in their deliberations about the Navy sonar training.

Excerpted from the Press of Atlantic City, Donna Weaver, staff writer. The “expert” opinion in the last sentence is particularly troubling.

Oil drilling could disrupt chemical weapons off N.J. coast

“The U.S. Army has admitted to dumping 64 million pounds of chemical weapons into U.S. waters from World War I until the early 1970s….Last month, Congress voted to open waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to oil and gas drilling…”

Chemical agents such as mustard gas, sarin gas, arsenic, cyanide and VX nerve gas were all dumped off the Atlantic Coast, raising questions about safety and the volatility of weapons in those dumpsites.

“If you put an oil platform on top of one of those piles, it will be a concern. You don’t want to be on a platform on top of this stuff,” said Richard Albright, of Grasonville, Md., an environmental health scientist, lawyer and author of “Cleanup of Chemical and Explosive Munitions.” “There is enough of this stuff out there that they will want to check and see if the area is clear.”

But according to a 2007 report prepared by the Congressional Research Service on the U.S. disposal of chemical weapons in the ocean, Albright’s suggestion could prove to be quite difficult.

The report states the primary obstacle is locating the weapons in the ocean. The lack of coordinates for most of the disposal sites, and the possibility that ocean currents may have moved the weapons beyond the dump areas, makes finding the weapons difficult at best if not impracticable in some cases, according to the report.

There is no scientific documentation on what effect oil exploration could have on these dumpsites, according to Albright.

When it comes to seismic testing in oil exploration, Albright said, if a significant charge is used in an area where weapons are located it could open up weapons and possibly wash them onto shore.

“If they hit a site with their depth charge, there is going to be a problem. There’s a risk there, but not enough to not do the drilling,” he said.