FEDERAL JUDGE ASKED TO BLOCK WEAPON TRANSFER
HONOLULU — Environmentalists and native groups asked a federal judge to block the transfer of chemical weapons from West Germany to Johnston Island, 825 miles west-southwest of Hawaii, for incineration. The environmental group Greenpeace and two native Hawaiian groups Monday told United States District Judge David Ezra the Army did not comply with environmental laws in its plans to ship the nerve gas to Johnston.
The groups, which were unsuccessful in their first bid to stop the transfer, are now seeking a preliminary injunction on grounds the shipments and incineration threaten the Pacific environment.
Judge Ezra said he would rule before Sept. 10 after he was given assurances by the Army that the weapons shipments would not leave Germany before that date.
Government attorneys contend that halting the shipments, even temporarily, will raise serious security and foreign policy concerns.
The government Sunday declassified the Global Commons Environmental Assessment. The study considered a number of scenarios - such as spontaneous explosion of a round, a rocket attack, fire aboard ship or grounding of the vessel - and concluded the risks of transfer were small and the effects would be slight.
Opponents charged that military officials had not considered alternatives such as destroying the weapons where they are, taking them to a mainland site, or destroying them by some other means.
Government lawyers, however, said eight mainland sites had been evaluated and rejected for various reasons.
Other ways of destroying the weapons, such as chemical neutralization, were deemed impractical, and Bonn rejected the idea of destroying the weapons in Germany, they said.