6:51 pm

  Local News
  State / National / World
  Opinion / Letters
  Arts / Entertainment
  Submit Event
  Comics / Games
  DJ Designers
  Advertise With Us
  About Us
OP-ED: Obama’s nonpolluting firefighters
July 22, 2014, 05:00 AM The Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration is asking Congress for more money to fight summer wildfires, especially in the dry West, but perhaps it could start by getting its own agencies off firefighters’ backs. We’re speaking of the Defense Department’s recent and gratuitous fit of environmental consciousness, which has disrupted disaster efforts in peak wildfire season.

A bipartisan group of 25 senators led by Arizona’s John McCain last Thursday sent Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel a letter demanding an explanation for the Pentagon’s June decision to stop programs that supply federal equipment to states for fighting wildfires. DOD suspended the programs on grounds the equipment didn’t meet the latest federal emissions standards. As if real fires aren’t major air-polluting events.

At issue are two programs — the Federal Excess Personal Property Program and the Firefighter Property Program — that every year loan local firefighting units more than $150 million of equipment that the federal government no longer needs. The programs supply tens of thousands of items — trucks, pumps, generators, engine parts — and have become a lifeline for smaller, all-volunteer fire departments that can’t afford $500,000 for a new tanker. This is more than charity given that the vast majority of the wildfires these local units battle occur on land owned by the federal government.

But in mid-June DOD suspended the transfer of trucks and generators, many of which were made for military use with diesel engines that don’t meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest emissions standards. According to the Defense Logistics Agency, which handles the transfers, its employees were wading through paperwork in May and suddenly feared that they weren’t abiding by a decades-old agreement with the EPA to submit to Clean Air Act standards. DOD’s response to its self-generated confusion was to suspend the program, leaving thousands of local fire-fighting teams without help.

An enormous state outcry caused EPA and DOD to announce last week that they are restarting the programs. The wizards at DOD have concluded that EPA grants a “national security” exemption to its emissions rules for transferred military equipment. Wonderful.

Yet proving that no government mistake goes without punishing others, the agencies have nonetheless suggested that this program restart may now come with new requirements — including that local firefighters track and ultimately return every piece of equipment so the feds can destroy them. We can’t have rogue, un-emissions-friendly generators roaming the countryside.

That inspired Senator McCain’s letter to Hagel asking to know how this mess happened, as well as the details on any new requirements. Local fire units have enough trouble without worrying that the feds will suddenly seize their fire truck keys. This administration can’t even give things away without making a mess of it.



Tags: local, equipment, federal, programs, emissions, without,

Other stories from today:

Letter: Responding to Israel-Palestine conflict
Letter: No-nonsense nuns
Letter: The rules in Millbrae

Print this Page Print this Page  |  Bookmark and Share
<< Back
Return To Archives

Daily Journal Quick Poll
Do you agree with Gov. Brown signing The End of Life Option Act, which allows terminally ill patients to end their lives with the help of a doctor?

Yes, it will allow those with terminal conditions to die with dignity
No, doctors are sometimes too hasty in determining someone is terminally ill
Not sure


United States, 11 Pacific Rim countries reach trade deal
WASHINGTON — Having hammered out an ambitious trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim countries, the Obama ..
California governor signs right-to-die legislation
SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday allowing terminally ill people in the nati..
California governor signs hard-won right-to-die legislation
SACRAMENTO — California will become the fifth state to allow terminally ill patients to legally en..
US commander says Afghans requested US airstrike in Kunduz
WASHINGTON — Afghan forces who reported being under Taliban fire requested the U.S. airstrike that..
Three share Nobel medicine prize for tropical disease drugs
STOCKHOLM — A Chinese scientist who turned to ancient texts to discover a powerful malaria drug sh..
More >>  

©2015 San Mateo Daily Journal
San Mateo County open houses