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DOW JONES INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Murkowski: Senate To Consider Bill Endangering Vieques
February 21, 2000
Copyright © 2000 DOW JONES & COMPANY, INC. All Rights
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP)--U.S. senators will begin considering
a bill in March that could jeopardize a compromise between President
Bill Clinton and Puerto Rican leaders over a controversial Navy
bombing range, Sen. Frank Murkowski said Monday.
Murkowski said the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee,
which he chairs, would hold hearings on a measure allowing the
U.S. Navy to keep half its property on Vieques island, site of
a bombing range off the U.S. territory's eastern coast. The other
half, used for storing weapons, would be sold to the island's
A decision on whether to continue military exercises would
be put off until later, Murkowski said, adding he expected Vieques
residents to reject Clinton's offer of $50 million in return for
"I think that is an unfortunate and disagreeable proposal,"
said Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska who visited the bombing
range this weekend.
He made his proposal at a conference of the Aspen Institute
think tank, the same day that some 85,000 people marched in San
Juan to demand the Navy leave Vieques immediately.
Murkowski said that even if exercises stop, the Navy needs
to retain control of the range because the bombs, mines and shells
scattered across it over nearly 60 years of exercises have made
"The Navy has polluted it, and I don't know if it can
ever be cleaned up," he said. "If those lands are turned
over ... the Navy would be exposed to endless liability."
His bill could derail a compromise worked out by Clinton requiring
the Navy to clean up and abandon the island completely if residents
vote to expel them in a referendum.
Murkowski called Clinton's offer - and his proposal for a referendum
on the island's future relationship with the U.S. - an attempt
to win the support of Puerto Ricans living in New York City for
Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign.
Murkowski had introduced a bill in September proposing the
Navy surrender all its lands in Vieques. He said he would amend
the bill and begin hearings as early as March 7.