Attorneys urge extension of comment period - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Attorneys urge extension of comment period

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Lawyers for the National Trust for Historic Preservation have written to Assistant Secretary to the U.S. Navy Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, expressing concern about the National Environmental Policy Act process for the Guam and CNMI military relocation. In a letter dated August 9, Matthew Adams, an attorney with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, the firm representing the trust on a pro bono basis, cites statements from Joint Guam Program Office regarding comment on the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Adams refers to a story by KUAM News in which spokesman for JGPO USMC Maj. Neil Ruggiero said concerns submitted on the Final EIS have to, "Be something new that has not been brought up in those previous 10,000 comments".

"That is not the law", counters Adams in his letter to Pfannenstiel. "Neither the [sic] National Environmental Protection Act or the Council on Environmental Quality's NEPA regulations, nor the Department of the Navy's NEPA regulations places any sort of limit on the type or quantity of comments on a Final EIS."

Adams continues, "In light of the potential for JGPO's statements to have a 'chilling effect' on public participation, we respectfully submit that it would be appropriate for the Department of the Navy to issue a public notice correcting JGPO's previous statements".

In addition, Adams writes it would be appropriate for the 30-day comment period to be extended for and additional and equal amount of time in order "to insure that all interested parties do, in fact, have a reasonable opportunity to comment on the 20,000-page document."

A second letter addressed to Pfannenstiel by Adams on behalf of the National Trust for Preservation and the Guam Preservation Trust expresses concern over a public briefing on the Final EIS conducted on Guam by the Navy. Adams writes the briefing conducted in July at the University of Guam failed to provide a detailed description of the contents of the Final EIS and to provide the public with an opportunity to ask questions about the Final EIS and the military relocation project.

Adams explains some of the questions were edited and some were suppressed altogether, writing, "This is not acceptable...it violates both the letter and the spirit of NEPA." Adams continues, "Worse, [it] violates the public trust. Interested members of the public had a right to expect that questions - both their own and others - would be read accurately and fairly."

That slides of the presentation were not distributed to the public and that the panel closed the meeting leaving question unanswered, as well as the limited capacity of the venue also compromised the objective of the briefing, according to Adams.   

Adams ends by inviting Pfannestiel to discuss the concerns stated in the letter, as well as concerns about the impacts of the project on Pagat, with the firm's clients at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Guam Preservation Trust.

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