WHAT: Oral Argument before Judge Rosemary M. Collyer
WHEN: October 15, 2004, 2:30 p.m.
WHERE: Federal District Court for the District of Colombia, 333 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Courtroom 6. Washington, D.C. 20001
BACKGROUND: On behalf of the Basel Action Network (BAN) and Sierra Club, Earthjustice filed suit on September 26, 2003, in DC Federal District Court to stop the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) from towing 13 toxic "Ghost Fleet" naval vessels from the James River in Virginia to Teesside, England, for scrapping. After an emergency hearing in October 2003, the judge prohibited the agency from exporting nine of these PCB and hazardous waste-laden vessels until the government assessed the environmental risks associated with their export. However, despite the lack of proper licensed facilities for receiving them, four of the toxic ships were allowed to be towed to England in mid-October 2003, where they have subsequently sat in limbo.
Martin Wagner, an attorney with Earthjustice who will represent the groups in court said, "The Ghost Fleet is an American responsibility. The Bush administration should rethink this plan to export US toxic waste and US jobs overseas. These exports are illegal and defy common sense."
Under the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA), it is illegal to export PCBs, which are highly toxic chemicals known to cause liver and nervous system damage to humans and wildlife even in microscopic amounts, without a special EPA exemption granted after public hearings. Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), it is illegal to export hazardous wastes unless the proposed receiving facility is properly licensed and the receiving nation has consented.
The suit contends that the Bush Administration has ignored TSCA, RCRA, and other laws intended to protect human health and the environment from harm such as that posed by these ships. Plaintiffs assert that the United States has an international responsibility not to dump them onto our global neighbors, has the capacity to manage these toxic wastes domestically, and yet has failed to adequately explore and exploit this preferable option.