WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and senior member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee, today praised the agreement reached by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) that will allow local fire and law enforcement agencies to continue receiving surplus military equipment:
“I applaud the DOD and EPA for coming to an agreement on a 25-year-old rule that the Department of Defense (DOD) recently decided to start enforcing to the detriment of a program supporting Oklahoma’s local fire departments and their ability to fight wildfires.
“This quick resolution would not have been possible without the rapid criticism from many Members of Congress and the coordinated effort with Governor Fallin’s office.
“Today the agencies decided to extend the national security exemption for this vital program on the grounds that the vehicles’ titles remain under DOD after being repurposed in order to ensure the vehicles are eventually destroyed. This new agreement will create more red tape for our local fire departments by requiring the roughly 17,000 pieces of surplus equipment around the state to now be tracked and returned once they are no longer in use. This is the best short term answer to maintain the program with the DOD, and I will be working with my colleagues to address the unnecessary regulation created by the agreement. Since Thursday, I have been in contact with both agencies about this issue and I appreciate their responsiveness to my staff and me on this urgent matter,” Sen. Inhofe said.
Each year, Oklahoma’s fire departments receive and rely on $13 million to $15 million worth of surplus equipment from the DOD. The cost of new vehicles falls between $150,000 and $200,000, but the departments are able to take these surplus vehicles and equip them for as low as $30,000.
In a recent letter to the EPA, Governor Mary Fallin had criticized the agency for discontinuing a longstanding program allowing Oklahoma’s rural fire departments to repurpose surplus military equipment into fire engines and water tenders.
Oklahoma’s rural fire departments are using nearly 9,000 military surplus vehicles and pieces of equipment, valued at more than $150 million, acquired through the Federal Excess Personal Property (FEPP) and the Firefighter Property Program (FPP).
Fallin said the decision to end the surplus equipment program was devastating for rural fire departments and could put the lives and property of Oklahomans in danger.
“Surplus military equipment has been essential to supporting the efforts of local fire departments, which are the first responders in 75% of all wildfires,” said Fallin. “The decision to terminate this successful program was clearly made without thought to the adverse effects to local firefighting efforts and the ability to protect the lives and property of our citizens,” said Fallin.
“Wildfires themselves are environmentally destructive events that produce carbon emissions and other toxins,” Fallin wrote.
Since 2004, at least 80 Oklahomans have been killed or injured by wildfires and more than 300,000 acres have burned, destroying more than 800 homes.