Two actions you can take to reduce Navy pollution

Give a gift of activism to San Diego after Earth Day 2000.

by Humberto Tessada

  ast month's celebration of Earth Day was a good reminder that we all need to take action to preserve our precious environment. In San Diego, a major action we can take is a strong, proactive position on regulating Navy projects and discharges. Give the gift of activism; join us for a new century in San Diego where all operations that degrade the environment are regulated under the law and new projects minimize impacts to the environment.


Action 1: Protect our community from Navy pollution where state oversight does exist


Although the Navy is exempt from many environmental protection laws, one state agency, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, still has considerable authority over some aspects of Navy pollution. On May 23rd, the Regional Board will hold a hearing on the Navy's proposal to home-port two more nuclear carriers in San Diego Bay. The Navy has consistently refused to include the many health, safety, and environmental quality measures needed to reduce the impacts of this project. Many of the Regional Board members are recently appointed and need to hear from the public that it supports proactive regulation of the US Navy. The Board's willingness to take an active role in regulating the Navy will depend on the public demand for adequate and vigorous regulation of Navy operations in San Diego.

Take Action: Attend the May 23rd hearing at 9am (time certain) at the Holiday Inn On The Bay, 1355 North Harbor Drive in downtown San Diego, and ask the Regional Board to improve the safety of the Navy's proposal to bring two more nuclear carriers to San Diego Bay. Specifically ask the Board to require:


  • Emergency response plans for neighboring communities, including warning sirens;
  • Full disclosure of information about accident records and potential areas of impact;
  • Protections for water quality of San Diego Bay;
  • Mitigation for impacts from oil spills and heated water discharges from the ships;
  • Reductions in air toxics from traffic and dredging.


Action 2: Call Vice-President Al Gore and ask him to remove Navy environmental exemptions

As every San Diegan knows, the Navy is a significant presence in San Diego County. What is less well known is that the cost of this presence, in terms of environmental degradation, is high. The Navy is the largest polluter of San Diego Bay and the San Diego region. The Navy has spilled thousands of gallons of oil into the bay, created over 100 toxic waste sites in the county, operates many nuclear reactors in the bay, and has contaminated bay sediments.

Part of the problem is that the Navy is exempt from many important environmental and public safety laws. It is exempt from the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, sections of the Clean Water Act, and regulation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

It is time for the Navy to be brought under the same environmental regulations as the private sector in order to protect our communities and natural resources. San Diego should not be less protected than other cities in the nation just because we host the Navy. Until the Navy is brought under regulation, our public health and safety as well as our environment will be at risk from Navy pollution.

The Navy is not subject to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulation, and has refused, to date, to reveal the nature of the threat of naval reactors in our communities. They have also refused to provide for a regional emergency response plan or warning sirens, which are required by the NRC for commercial reactors. The same protection, if not more, should be given to populations surrounding naval reactors.

Navy vessels are exempt from oil pollution laws. After the devastating impact of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, state and federal legislation was passed to guard against another such spill. Unfortunately, Navy vessels were exempted from these laws, which has resulted in thousands of gallons of oil spilled each year into San Diego Bay. According to US Coast Guard records, the Navy is already the largest contributor of oil and fuel spills in San Diego Bay. The addition of more carriers will increase oil spills.

Navy permits meet lower standard than other port users. The Navy's storm-water discharge permit conditions are significantly less stringent than private industrial bay users. The facilities are, as yet, without any permit at all. The Navy cannot be fined for pollution from vessels.

Take Action: Call Al Gore and tell him there should be no more environmental exemptions or special treatment for the Navy. Ask him to support legislation that will bring the Navy under full environmental regulation. Call (202) 456-1414 now.

Call Humberto Tessada at 619-235-0281, ext. 104 or email for more information.