Oregon chemical weapons incineration activists will finally get their day in court!
On 9 March 2004 the Oregon Court of Appeals agreed with environmental activists and ruled against the US Army when it ordered that activists are entitled to challenge the DEQ's permit to incinerate at trial.
"It means the permit is really in question now," said Richard Condit, attorney for the incineration opponents. The activists, who include environmental groups GASP, Sierra Club, and Oregon Wildlife Federation, along with 22 environmental groups, were elated.
"I don't even know how to put it into words," said GASP Executive Director Karyn Jones. "I'm excited. I'm shocked. I feel that we have been validated."
Incineration opponents have been trying to get a trial on the Oregon DEQ's permit decision since early 1997. When denied a trial by Judge Michael Marcus in 1998, the activists consistently argued the Judge erred in applying the law to this case. Yesterday, the Court of Appeals agreed with the activists, saying that Ms. Jones and others will be allowed to present their own evidence or cross examine experts used to support the permit.
The activists have already shown in court that children of the 30,000 people downwind of the facility will suffer from brain damage and other ailments as a result of the chemical weapons burning. Oregon DEQ and the Army have admitted that the incinerator will not be able to control the release into the air of heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, and beryllium, along with other toxins like dioxin and hundreds of unknown pollutants if the facility operates as planned.
Activists have also shown that mustard and nerve agent can be destroyed in warm water or caustic solution, respectively, and will leave the air and the environment much, much cleaner and safer.
Stu Sugarman, attorney for the activists, stated his belief that "this is the beginning of the end of chemical weapons burning in Oregon."