WASHINGTON – Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Baltimore, is strongly urging the Sierra Club to drop a federal lawsuit to block the proposed construction of a massive, new Food and Drug Administration complex in White Oak.
But Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope wrote back this week that his organization had no intention of dropping its suit.
Pope said the selection of the White Oak site violated federal laws and that the proposed 2-million-square-foot facility will contribute to sprawl and traffic congestion in Montgomery County.
“This is a perfect example of wide-open areas that should be preserved rather than developed with sprawl projects,” Sierra Club attorney Jim Dougherty told the Associated Press last month.
The 800-acre site, just north of the Capital Beltway on New Hampshire Avenue, was the former home of a naval research center. Mikulski said the FDA desperately needs the new facility planned for White Oak.
“To derail this consolidation a this point would jeopardize FDA’s crucial mission of regulating what amounts to 25 cents of every dollar spent in the United States,” Mikulski wrote in a March 1 letter in which she asked Pope to drop the suit.
“Right now, FDA is struggling due to outdated laboratory space, technology, and infrastructure. . . .Because of additional leasing costs, even a one-year delay in consolidation will cost $32 million,” her letter said. “This money could instead be used to get a lifesaving drug to market sooner and for more inspectors to protect our food supply.”
But the Sierra Club maintains that when the General Services Administration selected the site, it ignored a pair of executive orders that “direct federal agencies considering new facilities to give preference to downtown (Washington) business districts” and that “require agencies to consult with all affected jurisdictions regarding planned facility changes.”
Pope also wrote that in choosing White Oak, the government violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, which requires all federal agencies to conduct environmental impact statements before carrying out any major action that could affect the environment.
Although the Montgomery County Sierra Club chapter initially supported the FDA facility, the New Columbia (Washington, D.C.) chapter supports the suit and claims the new complex will cause additional increased traffic congestion.
“The FDA consolidation in White Oak, Md., furthers sprawl by adding 7,000 cars to the Beltway,” the group wrote on its web site.
Mikulski, who last week said she was “enormously disturbed” by the lawsuit, was to have met with Sierra Club representatives Monday, but inclement weather postponed the meeting. It has yet to be rescheduled, according to her office.
The meeting is part of Mikulski’s annual environmental advisory board meeting with various environmental groups. Mikulski and the Sierra Club have clashed before and, at least once, the group was not invited to the annual meeting.