OPG to ask Ministry of Defense for a reassessment of the environmental impact of Osprey

October 11, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo

On October 10, Takeyoshi Shimoji, the deputy director general responsible for Environmental Planning in the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG), suggested that now that the Osprey have been deployed, the Ministry of Defense should carry out another environmental impact assessment that includes noise-related impact and possible adverse effects on plant and animal life in the Northern Training Area (NTA). The Ministry of Defense has implemented an initial assessment for relocating helipads to the NTA. Shimoji made these comments at the Special Committee on U.S. Military Base Relations in the Prefectural Assembly. The OPG will ask the Ministry of Defense to conduct another round of assessment on the NTA.

An OPG official says that its Environmental Impact Assessment Ordinance does not cover the relocation of helipads to the NTA, but both the OPG and the Ministry of Defense say that they want to avoid adverse effects on the environment due to the relocation. Shimoji said that the Ministry of Defense has not indicated its stance on the potential influence on the environment once the Osprey aircraft have begun operation.

Locals have seen the Osprey flying frequently in helicopter mode over residential areas in the vicinity of the base. They criticize the Marines for this, pointing out that the U.S. military has not observed the bilateral safety agreement set up for the aircraft. Susumu Matayoshi, the head of the Executive Office of the Governor, commented in the special committee, “I suspect that the safety measures in the agreement are not effective because the wording includes the expression ‘to the greatest extent possible.’”

With regard to the Osprey’s autorotation function that rotary-wing aircraft use when their engine stops in flight, Matayoshi commented, “While the Osprey does have an autorotation function, it is unreliable to ensure a safe landing, so it depends on other methods.” Shimoji and Matayoshi were answering questions from Masaaki Maeda, a member of the special committee who belongs to the Japanese Communist Party.

The Pentagon plans to deploy F-35 stealth fighters to Kadena Air Base. On this issue, Matayoshi said, “Whatever the type may be, the U.S. government should not deploy any aircraft to Kadena Air Base that further increase the burden on the local people.” He also added, “We have not heard that the F-35 deployment poses the sort of serious problems that the Osprey does, and we need to collect more information on this deployment.” He did not indicate a clear stance on the deployment of the F-35 fighters. Matayoshi was answering a question posed by Kiyoki Nakagawa, who belongs to the Liberal Democratic Party and is a member of the special committee.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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