(WIBW) - Federal agencies reached an agreement Wednesday which will allow local fire departments to continue receiving surplus military equipment.
The Kansas Congressional delegation issued a statement, touting the deal between the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Defense.
For more than 40 years, local fire and law enforcement agencies have been able to obtain old military trucks and engines at a fraction of what they'd cost new. Right now, Kansas officials say, nearly 450 of those vehicles are in use in 81 Kansas counties.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently stopped the program because of concerns over emissions standard. Wednesday, the agency agreed to an exemption for the program, on the grounds the vehicles be returned to the Defense Department to be destroyed when they are retired from service.
In their joint statement, Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts and U.S. Reps. Lynn Jenkins, Tim Huelskamp, Kevin Yoder and Mike Pompeo said:
“We are pleased the administration acted in a timely manner and has decided to continue this successful program of equipment transfers. These vehicles are an important lifeline and safety tool for our rural communities. Local fire departments across Kansas and the nation will once again be able to utilize excess equipment to save lives and protect their communities.”
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, however, cautioned about the requirement the vehicles be destroyed, saying it would create more red tape for local fire departments in how exactly to return the vehicles once they completed using them. However, he said, "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."
The Kansas Congressional delegation sent the following letter to program administrators July 8, 2014:
Dear Administrator McCarthy and MG Bingham,
We are writing to you regarding an issue of great importance to Kansas and the safety of many of its small, rural communities. For more than 40 years, the Kansas Fire Service has transferred military vehicles to fire departments for use in their operations. These military vehicles, which are disposed of and transferred through the Defense Logistics Agency, are utilized by many Kansas Fire Departments. Currently, the Kansas Fire Service has 442 vehicles, originally valued at almost $23 million, in use by 81 Kansas counties. In Kansas many local fire departments are the first responders to any pipeline incident, and these vehicles provide them with the necessary capabilities to meet these obligations.
These transfers have a long history of being mutually beneficial to the Department of Defense and to state and local fire departments. As such, we find recent reports that the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army’s TACOM Life Cycle Management Command have suspended the current contract very troubling as it will have significant impacts on our local communities. Not only will new requests not be honored, but currently used vehicles will be unable to be repaired. These vehicles are providing essential services, and are being utilized on an as-needed basis. Thus, the environmental impact of these vehicles is small, as they are not being utilized in day-to-day operations.
Our local communities depend on these vehicles for public safety. This immediate termination puts local fire district in a potentially dangerous situation during a volatile tornado and weather season in Kansas, and could hamper efforts to respond to fire disasters and protect the local communities. We strongly encourage previously approved practices by the EPA and Department of Defense in this regard to be re-implemented immediately. We appreciate your consideration and timely response to this request.
Posted by Melissa Brunner