- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — The Army, facing a lawsuit over a planned biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick, says it has properly studied the potential environmental impact of terrorist attacks on the lab.

But the details of the study can’t be disclosed without tipping off terrorists about the post’s security measures, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command said in its final environmental impact statement for the project.

It was not clear Wednesday whether the Army statement would deter the project’s opponents, whose leader didn’t respond to queries from the Associated Press.

The opponents had threatened a court challenge based on an earlier draft of the plan. They cited recent federal appeals court rulings in California that ordered developers to consider the possibility of terrorist attacks on a proposed biodefense lab and a facility for spent nuclear fuel storage.

The Army is seeking to replace and expand the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick in Frederick.

USAMRIID is the center of military research on the world’s deadliest organisms.

Opponents led by Robert Kozak, a Frederick-based environmental scientist and president of Atlantic Biomass Conversions Inc., had threatened to sue the Army for failing to consider the environmental consequences of terrorist attacks on the lab.

Mr. Kozak told the Frederick News-Post earlier this week that the group hopes to file its lawsuit by May, but he didn’t address the revised version of the environmental impact statement.

In that final version, scheduled for formal approval by Feb. 12, the Army states that terrorist attacks “may be credible, remotely possible threats.”

The document then quotes USAMRIID Commander Col. George Korch Jr., speaking at public meeting Oct. 26 about the draft environmental statement. Col. Korch said “potential terrorist acts have been evaluated.”

Without disclosing details, Col. Korch said the post has implemented countermeasures, including tighter security at entry points, multiple checkpoints at buildings, fences, remote parking and armed guards.

Opponents have cited two recent decisions by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The more recent case, decided Oct. 16, involved the Department of Energy’s environmental assessment for a proposed biodefense laboratory at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory near San Francisco.

In that decision, the court found the assessment inadequate because it didn’t consider the possibility of a terrorist attack.

The ruling was similar to the court’s decision in June that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had acted unreasonably in declining to assess the environmental impact of a terrorist attack on a proposed storage facility for spent nuclear fuel at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in California.

The Army’s draft environmental statement for the USAMRIID project, published in August, stated that terrorist attacks “are not reasonably foreseeable” and that an evaluation of their impacts was not required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Ron Bass, a senior environmental planner with California-based consulting firm Jones & Stokes, said the Army’s revisions don’t appear to meet the requirements of the federal court rulings.

“I think that they need to discuss generally — it can be very general — what the impacts of such a problem would be,” he. said.

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