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Project: Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs)
Giving Community Stakeholders a Voice in Defense Property Cleanup
Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs) are community-based advisory committees created by President William J. Clinton to give stakeholders a voice in Defense property cleanup. Unfortunately Despite President Clinton’s insistence that community members be given a voice in the process, institutionally the Defense Department has worked to undermine that process. For RAB members the cleanup of their local installation isn’t an academic or philosophical cause. Whether its a Defense Depot in Memphis Tennessee whose accidental release of toxins, killed all the dogs in a neighborhood or an Air Force Base in Texas whose groundwater contamination has engulfed an entire community, the Pentagon’s pollution threatens ordinary folks living in 3,000 towns and cities around the country. For these individuals the cleanup of their local installations are a matter of clean water, clear air and neighborhoods freed of the ominous specter of seriously contaminated military property.
In response to this problem Arc Ecology began Caucusing RAB members so that the impacted stakeholders could begin to work together to solve the problems they were all facing. From September of 1997 to January 2000, the Caucus grew from a network of California-based RABs into the largest grassroots network of stakeholders involved in military toxic cleanup.
For many of these folks, the Caucus was their first opportunity to learn their rights as RAB members. It was their first opportunity to learn about the process of toxic pollution cleanup and the regulations that govern compliance with environmental law on military bases. But perhaps most importantly, they learn they are not alone and that there are other communities struggling with identical issues across the country. The awareness that the problems they face are not unusual, and that they are not imagining the arcane lengths to which the Defense Department will go to avoid cleanup is an amazingly liberating and empowering experience. Knowing that there is a network designed specifically to help them sort out the issues and threats posed by military pollution has inspired Caucus members to do more, take advantage of technical and other support opportunities, and fight for their community’s health.
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