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Enviro-Mich message from Rob Perks <rperks@peer.org>
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For immediate release: Monday, August 9, 1999	Contact: Amanda Carufel
(202) 265-7337

Wetlands Protections Failing
Army Corps Flunks "Report Card"on Permits & Enforcement

Washington, D.C....While Vice President Al Gore decries urban sprawl,
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has told its districts that funding and
staffing will be based solely on the issuance of development permits and
has made enforcement of laws protecting the nation's wetlands its lowest
priority.  Not surprisingly, enforcement actions, wetland restorations
and inspections have dropped dramatically, according to a comprehensive,
multi-year tabulation of Corps permit and enforcement data issued today
by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).	
Obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to every Corps
district, PEER has compiled a "Corps Report Card" showing that:

		> The Corps is granting more development permits than
ever and denying almost none.   The Corps has doubled its reliance on
Nationwide and Regional Permits, issuing more than 60,000 in 1998.
Meanwhile, individual permits which require environmental evaluations
have fallen by more than half.
	
		> The number of wetlands restored under Corps auspices
has declined by almost two-thirds since 1992.

	> Permit inspections have dropped nearly 40% nationwide.
Instances of where the Corps 	has taken violators to court are
becoming rare events  -  litigation to remedy unauthorized wetland
destruction nosedived by nearly 80% between 1992 and 1998.
 
"The steadily increasing dependence on Nationwide and Regional Permits,
'office determinations' of Corps jurisdiction versus field visits, and
most significantly, the complete disappearance of enforcement signifies
that the public interest has been discarded in favor of one factor --
economics," stated PEER Board member Magi Shapiro, a former long-time
Corps project manager. "A program without enforcement is an invitation
to break the law without
consequences."

According to a recent Corps internal memorandum, titled "Workload Policy
Initiatives", released by PEER, permit violators and illegal developers
can expect minimal repercussions from the Corps:	
			
		> For significant violations, where no permit exists,
the Corps will either refer the matter to EPA, or "If the Corps is still
lead agency at this point, the Corps will usually choose to take no
enforcement action and end its involvement with the case."
  
		> If the significance of the wetland destruction "cannot
be determined, the Corps will normally do nothing further."	

Noting that President George Bush declared a "no net wetland loss" goal
for the Corps and that President Bill Clinton has unveiled a "Clean
Water Initiative" with the goal of restoring an additional 200,000 acres
of wetlands, Shapiro commented that "There is a growing disconnect
between our national goals and the Corps program.  The Corps is left,
ultimately, with only a program facade in which staff must make complex
environmental decisions based on no more than a glance at paperwork."  

	- - 30 - -

The "report card" for the Corps nationally and for each of the 38 Corps
districts (for the fiscal years 1982, 1987 and 1992-98) and related
documents can be found on the web at http://www.peer.org/corps.


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