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In a letter to the ranking members of the U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Committee, members of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sided with state gubernatorial and legislative representatives in staunch opposition to a proposal by Congress that would eliminate large environmental penalties handed down by states against the U.S. Department of Defense. Attorney General for the state of Washington and NAAG president Christine Gregoire, and Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar, co-chair of NAAG’s environment committee, claim the proposal would weaken the states’ ability to assess environmental fines and penalties at military installations. Gary Larson, spokesperson for Gregoire, said NAAG sees the proposal as a potential setback for all of the work that state legislatures have done to protect the environment from federal pollution. “This proposal is basically requiring legislative action by the federal government on something we think is best handled by the police powers of the state. Congress is basically saying ‘we’re not going to pay for this environmental damage,’” Larson said. Under the proposal, money appropriated in the bill could not be used to pay fines or penalties in excess of $1.5 million for environmental violations at military bases unless Congress authorized the payments. “We just think that the federal facilities should be required to abide by all of the same environmental laws,” he said. In the letter, the state representatives said it was “little comfort” that the proposed restriction on pollution fines applied only to large penalties. “The federal government is the nation’s most significant polluter and military installations are major contributors to that pollution,” the letter said. Larson said he did not want to speculate on how the letter would affect the passage of the bill. In addition to Gregoire and Salazar, both Nevada Gov. Kenny C. Guinn, who heads the Natural Resources Committee of the National Governor’s Association, and Indiana State Senator Beverly Gard, have also signed the letter.

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