January 27, 2005

Wyden Seeks to Stop Move to Transport Chemical Weapons

Senator cosponsors legislation to prevent Defense Department from studying feasibility of moving weapons materials to alternate sites such as the Umatilla Chemical Depot

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today took a step to halt the possible transportation of dangerous chemical weapons materials across state borders and into Oregon. Wyden today joined with U.S. Senators Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) and Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) in sponsoring legislation to prevent the Department of Defense from funding a study on the feasibility of transporting the chemical munitions at the Pueblo, Colorado Chemical Depot to unnamed out-of-state sites to be destroyed. One possible incinerator site for transported chemical weapons materials is 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. "Protecting Oregonians near the Depot and along any potential transport route for some of the world's most dangerous weapons is a priority, and this bill should stop the Pentagon's latest move in its tracks," said Wyden. "The Defense Department has already studied to death the risks of shipping chemical weapons across state borders, and it's time to take that possibility off the table once and for all." The Pentagon said on January 19 that it 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, despite the fact that the Department of Defense has conducted three similar studies over the last two decades, all of which concluded such a plan would be impractical. Currently, it is against the law to transport chemical munitions across state lines. 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. The bill is expected to be referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee.