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Northwest Training Range Complex the Epitome of Hypocrisy, and Negligence PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Monday, 06 April 2009 23:13
Northwest Training Range Complex the Epitome of Hypocrisy and Negligence

The “Change” we don’t need: increased Northwest training rangeComplex



PEJ.org -Joan Russow, Ph.D.Global Compliance Research Project


The US is planning on extending the United States Northwest Training Range Complex (NWTRC) and increasing their naval training and naval warfare off the west Coast close to the Canadian border. This Complex will be in violation of a series of international principles from the precautionary principle to the transboundary principle yet little concern appears to be expressed by the Canadian Department of Defence about the probably serious environmental and social impacts of this increased militarism.


The United States Northwest Training Range Complex (NWTRC) has engaged in military exercises, in several designated areas, along the west coast from California to the Canadian border since the Second World War.  In their training, submarines, surface

ships and aviators practice naval warfare off the West Coast. The Navy plans to increase the use of air and sea targets and a submarine tracking range, and to develop both a training minefield for submarines and an electronic signal emitter on the coast


 These “ training” activities, along with the Exercise Trident fury in the Greater Victoria Area and in Comox continue to be flagrant displays of militarism.  Under the international Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States and Canada are signatories, “propaganda for war is prohibited” These training activities and “exercises” should definitely be prohibited as propaganda for war.


Many citizens and environmental groups have warned the NWTRC of the probability of serious irreversible environmental consequences.


Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the NWTRC is obliged to do an Environmental impact assessment, and allow for comments.




  If one looks at the NWTRC Environmental Impact website, http://www.nwtrangecomplexeis.com/NaturalResources.aspx and watches the video one might begin to think that the purpose of their war games is to be
³environmental stewards² protecting flora and fauna”. They claim, “As responsible
environmental stewards, the U.S. Navy is concerned about the potential
effects of its operations on the environment and is committed to
complying with all applicable Federal laws, regulations and policies."
There has been, however, no mention of requirements to comply with international law.

Up on this website is a 1300 page draft EI statement; this statement essentially demonstrates that the Navy is fully aware of the wild life in the region.
 It contains elaborate discussion of each species and then essentially concludes that the increased training will have no measurable impact.




In NTRC EI statement they have bought into the myth that nuclear is a clean safe solution to climate change


The statement assures us that: "All tactical submarines in the U.S. Fleet are nuclear powered. Since no U.S. submarines burn fossil fuel, there would be no airborne emissions associated with their activities”.


Nuclear-powered and nuclear-arms capable submarines are not only environmentally unsound but also inherently dangerous. There has been substantial evidence of accidents and leakages over time. 




Throughout the report when the navy refers to hazardous materials being used, there is little indication of studies to determine the impact on the fauna and flora; simply quoting a source indicating that there is minimum impact is not enough.


In the NTRC report the US Navy claims that it is currently phasing out use of DU rounds because of the superior flight characteristics of tungsten and its performance against missile casings. [NOTE NOT BECAUSE OF POTENTIAL HARM. The navy is, however, still using depleted uranium at this time


In the NTRC statement they classify Depleted Uranium as a hazardous material. DU is listed, as a hazardous material, along with Pyrotechnics, Tracers, Spotting Charges, Barium chromate, Potassium per chlorate, Chlorides Phosphorus, Titanium compounds Depleted uranium, Oxidizers Lead oxide, Delay Elements, Barium chromate; Potassium perchlorate, …


In the NTRC statement the US navy indicates that it will use 20 mm cannon shells composed of both depleted uranium (DU) and tungsten. DU is “depleted” in that is has one-third less of the isotopes of U-234 and U-235, making it nearly 60 percent less radioactive than natural uranium. ,,,, Consultations with the NRC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  determined that this practice was acceptable because of the absence of environmental risk.


 In the 1999 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report on Depleted Uranium in weapon systems, however, under the section : “Precaution recommended” the scientists claimed that :there are still considerable scientific uncertainties …. that additional  work has to be done to reduce these uncertainties.



They concluded that there are also scientific uncertainties related to the longer-term behaviour of DU in the environment. For these reasons UNEP calls for certain precautionary actions.


This call parallels the reaffirmation of the precautionary principle as stated in the Rio Declaration: 

"Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of
full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing
cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation"
(Principle 15, Rio Declaration).


The US, along with every member state of the United Nations, made a
commitment to invoke the precautionary principle.




Undoubtedly, the increased assault, by this military exercise will eventually have a serious impact on Biodiversity. While US signed but not ratified the Biodiversity the US is still bound not to defeat the purpose of the Convention which is to protect Biodiversity,

Again the precautionary principle is applicable here:


"Where there is a threat of significant reduction or loss of
biological diversity, lack of full scientific certainty should not be
used as a reason for postponing measures to avoid or minimize such a
threat² (Convention on Biological Diversity, UNCED, 1992).



While there is an opportunity, in the US pacific coast, to comment; there has been no
opportunity in Canada to comment on how the increased militarism up
the Pacific Coast will impact on Canada.

The following map shows that these activities will take place close to the Canadian border.





There has been virtually no discussion about this in Canada.


I checked the Canadian Department of Defence website to see if there was any reference to the Exercise Trident Fury and Northwest Training Range Complex ,  and there was none.


Before April 13, 2009, there was an opportunity to submit concerns  about NWTRC; on April 8, I made a submission, and on April 12, I sent a letter, along with my submission to the NWTRC, to the Hon Peter Mackay;


In my letter to Hon Peter Mackay, I wrote the following:


In the Greater Victoria Area, and Comox area, there has been continued concern about Exercise Trident Fury, which I understand is going to take place again this June. There will undoubtedly be similar concern about the potential transboundary impacts from the NWTRC, proposal for increased military activity along the Coast. The proposed training activities are envisioned to take place close to Vancouver Island.


I then asked him the following question:


Has Canada made a submission expressing concern about the possible encroachment in Canadian waters? Has Canada been asked about the potential transboundary  impact? Is there a plan to link Canada into the NWTRC?


When I received no response, I followed up this letter with a call to the DND media relations and added a few more question: I received a response from the media liaison  that many of the questions were not within the mandate of the Department of Defence. At the time of writing this article I am waiting for a response.




In continuing and, above all, increasing war games up the Northwest
Coast, the NWTRC will be in violation of
not only the precautionary principle, but also of the transboundary


The transboundary principle has been enunciated in the Law of the Seas:

States shall take all measures necessary to ensure that activities under their jurisdiction or control are so conducted as not to cause damage by pollution to other States and their environment, and that pollution arising from incidents or activities under their jurisdiction or control does not spread beyond the areas where they exercise sovereign rights in accordance with this Convention. (Art. 194. 2., Law of the Seas, 1982)


The Law of the seas also affirmed that states have the obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment, and that States shall take, individually or jointly as appropriate, all measures consistent with this Convention that are necessary to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from any source


In addition, under the 1991 Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment In a transboundary Context, the Importance of developing anticipatory policies and of preventing , mitigating and monitoring significant adverse environmental impact in general and more specifically in a transboundary context .




The continued depositing of substances in water systems could be in violation of section …… of the Fisheries Act if there were transboundary impact. In Canada the depositing of deleterious substances that could destroy fish habitat is deemed to be a crime




Under the Law of the seas,  States are responsible for the fulfillment of their international obligations concerning the protection of human health and protection and preservation of the environment, and are liable in accordance with international law (Preamble, Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, 1992)


In addition, in 1993, a US case against the military held that individual military decision-makers could be held to be criminally responsible for irreversible consequences of their actions, if they had ignored warnings about the potential
consequences. Hopefully, this case has not been overturned, and that  there will substantial submissions documenting  the long-term impacts and the potential future impacts, and that these submissions  will be sufficient to be deemed a warning that could justify convictions of criminal negligence if and when these consequences materialize.


The Northwest Training Range Complex has been duly warned of the
potential serious consequences, by numerous opponents, and if these
consequences occur, those responsible will undoubtedly be held to be

criminally negligent.t
Last Updated on Sunday, 25 September 2016 13:18

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