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The use of munitions does not constitute a waste management activity because the munitions are not discarded.
Plaintiffs instituted a lawsuit against defendants, presenting claims under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA"). According to the plaintiffs, defendants' firing of ordnance onto the Live Impact Area (LIA) constituted disposal of any solid or hazardous waste which may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment. Furthermore, plaintiffs brought claims for the denial of the equal protection of the laws under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, asserting that defendants have denied them the equal protection of the laws by needlessly sitting and maintaining Camp Garcia on Vieques and recklessly conducting thousands of bomb raids. Plaintiffs also brought a claim under the ESA. The plaintiffs argued that the defendants violated the equal protection mandate when, without compelling justification, they chose to inflict military exercises and the resulting devastating consequences on the Viequenses because of their race and national origin, demonstrating a clear disregard for their well-being compared to the well-being of non-Viequenses. Plaintiffs also brought a claim under the Endangered Species Act ("ESA") for violation of certain "consultation requirements," and for "illegal takings" of listed species. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the RCRA claim, arguing that the ordnance was not discarded material as soon as it was fired onto the LIA. Defendants further filed a motion to dismiss the equal protection claims, contending that the same were time-barred. The defendants also sought dismissal of plaintiffs’ claim under the ESA on the ground that plaintiffs failed to give adequate notice of their claims prior to commencing the present action.
The court held that the fact the ordnance failed to fulfill its purpose of landing on the LIA and raising a dust cloud can not mean that the ordnance was discarded material immediately upon being fired. According to the court, regardless of whether the ordnance performed as the gunner or bomber wished, it was most certainly being used for its intended purpose and was thus not discarded material under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. To hold otherwise would torture the meaning of the term “discarded material.” Further, the court averred that if plaintiffs' contention were taken to its logical conclusion, every piece of ordnance that did not land precisely where it was intended would be considered discarded material immediately upon being fired. This extreme result can not have been within Congress' contemplation in drafting RCRA. Thus, RCRA did not support plaintiffs’ contention that munitions become discarded material immediately upon being fired. Anent the second issue, the court held plaintiffs’ equal protection claims were time-barred insofar as they were based on the construction of Camp Garcia and training exercises conducted prior to October 10, 1994. According to the court, plaintiffs knew or at least should have known that they were allegedly being discriminated against at the time that the allegedly discriminatory acts were taking place. Regarding the plaintiffs’ ESA claims, the court noted that the ESA required written notice to the Secretary of Commerce and/or Interior and any alleged violator at least sixty days prior to the filing of a citizen suit, and failure to comply with ESA's notice requirement would divest the court of jurisdiction to entertain claims under the ESA. Accordingly, the court dismissed without prejudice plaintiffs' claims under the ESA.