May 12, 2005

Wyden Blocks Transport of Chemical Weapons to Umatilla

Senator's bipartisan legislation will keep Defense Departmentfrom studying feasibility of moving weapons materials to alternate sitessuch as the Umatilla Chemical Depot

Washington, DC - Legislation championed by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to prevent the possible transportation of dangerous chemical weapons materials across state borders and into Oregon was signed into law this week. Wyden joined with U.S. Senators Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) and Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) in sponsoring the legislation earlier this year that prohibits the Department of Defense (DoD) from funding any study on the feasibility of transporting the chemical munitions at the Pueblo, Colorado Chemical Depot to unnamed out-of-state sites to be destroyed. The provision was included as part of the 2005 Emergency Supplemental funding bill approved by Congress and signed by the President this week. One possible incinerator site for transported chemical weapons materials was the Umatilla Chemical Depot in eastern Oregon; any materials transported to the Depot would travel throughout eastern Oregon and along the Oregon-Idaho border on their journey. "As of today, the Defense Department will no longer be able to even consider moving dangerous chemical weapons materials across state lines into our local communities," said Wyden. "Instead of greatly multiplying the risks to the people of Eastern Oregon, DOD can now focus exclusively on securing and permanently cleaning up the chemical risks that are currently in place." In April DoD announced that it was not currently considering the transport of chemical weapons materials across state lines, following a previous announcement in January that the Department would conduct a three-month study on the feasibility of transporting the stockpiles out of Colorado, Kentucky and Indiana to operational sites in Oregon and other states, at a cost of nearly $150,000. The legislation signed into law this week ensures that such studies will be prohibited in the future, effectively doing away with the possibility of transport of materials to the Umatilla facility. DoD has conducted three previous studies on the transport of chemical weapons across state lines over the last two decades, all of which have concluded that such a proposal is impractical. Wyden has long been an advocate of safety at the Umatilla Chemical Depot and in the surrounding communities. In 1999, he released a study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found that an emergency preparedness program at the facility lacked sufficient management. Wyden then worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Army representatives to ensure the maximum protection for citizens living near and working at the facility. In 2003, Wyden worked on a bipartisan basis with U.S. Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) to secure $4.1 million for the Umatilla Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparation Program. The funds were used for a variety of safety projects in and around the Umatilla Depot.