Vieques and Culebra Islands: An Analysis of Environmental Cleanup Issues [August 18, 2004]   [open pdf - 185KB]

For decades, the U.S. Navy conducted ship-to-shore bombing exercises and other live-fire training activities on Vieques Island and Culebra Island, located off the coast of Puerto Rico. In response to concerns about risks to public safety, human health, and the environment, Congress directed the Navy to close its training facilities on Vieques Island in 2003 and to relocate them elsewhere. Years earlier, Congress had enacted legislation in 1974 that required the Navy to cease its training operations on Culebra Island, in response to similar public concerns. At the request of the Governor of Puerto Rico, Sila M. Calderon, EPA has proposed to list Vieques and Culebra on the National Priorities List (NPL) of the nation's most hazardous waste sites. There are certain implications of the site listing for environmental cleanup, including opportunities to expedite the pace of remediation and enhance community involvement. However, listing a site on the NPL does not affect the stringency of the cleanup that is required or increase the availability of funding. Whether or not Vieques and Culebra are listed on the NPL, the degree of the cleanup will depend on threats to human health and the environment and the types of remediation that will be deemed necessary to address these threats. Whatever actions are required, the progress of cleanup will ultimately depend on the availability of federal funding to pay for the remediation. The cleanup of Culebra is further complicated by the legal issue of whether the Reserve Forces Facilities Authorization Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-166) prohibits federal expenditure for the decontamination of the island. This report will be updated as developments warrant.

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL32533
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