As noted in the December edition of Rock the Earth Notes, the US Army and Department of Defense are once again pushing to expand Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS) to allow for increased troop numbers and more intense exercises which will greatly impact the region. Of issue is whether or not the United States Army’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the increased operation of the PCMS: a) complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and applicable NEPA federal laws and regulations; b) adequately reviews potential environmental impacts and addresses mitigation efforts; and c) accurately identifies affected minority populations and environmental justice concerns.

In December, Rock the Earth opposed the functional expansion of the PCMS on a number of grounds, finding a multitude of deficiencies in the draft EIS. In particular, the draft EIS:

– Failed to adequately present and justify alternatives for the Proposed Action;
– Did not provide opportunities for meaningful public input;
– Did not sufficiently evaluate or present consistent data on past, present and future environmental impacts, including impacts from noise, impacts to cultural artifacts and resources, and impacts to air quality, endangered species, wildlife, vegetation, the federally-protected Comanche National Grasslands, geology, soils and water resources;
– Included discretionary mitigation efforts potentially restricted by appropriated funding;
– Did not identify, evaluate or mitigate Environmental Justice implications and places disparate adverse impacts on a segment of the population; and
– Was justifying a decision that has already been made.

This past month, the Army released their response to our (and others’) criticism of the DEIS, by issuing a Final EIS. Unfortunately, the Final EIS failed to make any significant changes as a result of these comments. To that end, in April Rock the Earth filed a subsequent comment letter to the Army noting that several significant and critical areas targeted in our original letter to the Army were still inadequately addressed. In particular, not only was the Army’s evaluation of impacts to several environmental concerns glossed over, but the agency failed to take a hard look at the Environmental Justice implications of the expansion of use for the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.

To read our full April letter to the Army, GO HERE.

Rock the Earth is currently consulting with counsel regarding potential litigation following the release of the forthcoming Record of Decision. For the latest news or additional background on this issue, please see the Piñon Canyon webpage on the Rock the Earth website.