Strong opposition from Utahns including Gov. Norm Bangerter, Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Wayne Owens has forced the Army to reconsider its plans to build an aerosol test facility at Dugway Proving Ground.
Jay R. Sculley, assistant Army secretary for research and development, and John M. Shannon, assistant secretary for installations, met at the Pentagon Monday morning to review their biological-warfare research plans in light of last week's opposition to the lab from many of Utah's political figures.Late last week, Hatch, R-Utah, said the lab is an "incredible risk" and "it would be unconscionable to subject Utahns" to its potential dangers.
Bangerter has said that until the Army fully satisfies all safety concerns, he will "do everything at my disposal to oppose" the facility.
And, saying it is "unbelievable that the Army can say `trust us,' Owens has vowed to fight congressional funding for the lab until all safety concerns are adequately addressed.
Rep. Jim Hansen has said such a facility is necessary but has suggested the Army delay the project until further information is available.
After the Sculley-Shannon meeting Monday morning, an Army spokesman said plans to decide the lab's fate by August may now have to be changed.
Lt. Col. John Chapla said the public-review period on the draft environmental impact statement ends April 14, but more public comment might be sought later on the final statement.
An alternative to building the small sealed enclosure at Dugway would be to put it at Johnston Atoll in the Pacific. The Army noted that option in its draft environmental impact statement, but rejected it.
Hatch called for the lab to be moved to Johnston Atoll. Owens, D-Utah, has called for a hearing on the lab by the House Interior, Foreign Affairs, and Armed Services committees.
"The EIS is woefully inadequate as to safety," Owens said. "There is enough international concern expressed that building it may lead to a breach of the 1972 treaty banning biological warfare, therefore I am about to introduce an amendment to preclude building it until the Army can satisfy both concerns. I am opposed to it being constructed in Utah until I am assured on both points."
"If they move it to Johnston Atoll it might solve the safety question for Utah," Owens said. "That doesn't solve all the questions. I am not opposed to building it in Utah under any circumstances, but I am opposed until they answer the questions of safety and the treaty to my satisfaction," Owens said.