Environmental Law Program

ELP Colloquium: Matthew Adams Follows-up on the Citizen Suit for Pågat

On Wednesday, April 18, ELP was fortunate to host Matthew Adams, Senior Managing Associate at SNR Denton. His presentation, entitled “Pågat Under Fire:Follow-up on the Citizen Suit Against the U.S. Department of Defense to Save an Ancient Chamorro Village,” addressed the litigation regarding a potential military build-up in Guam.

The SNR Denton firm is representing the Plaintiffs pro bono, and has extensive experience advising on and litigating various environmental issues. Mr. Adams discussed the year-long litigation that began on November 17, 2010, when the Guam Preservation Trust, We Are Guåhan, and the National Historic Trust for Historic Preservation filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Hawaiʻi to challenge the site selection of an ancient Chamorro village known as Pågat, for a proposed firing range complex. The site selection by the U.S. Department of Defense was part of the Guam and C.N.M.I. Military Relocation Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), released on July 28, 2010. The relocation, also known as the “Buildup,” involves the transfer of 8,000 U.S. Marines and their dependents from a U.S. base in Okinawa to Guam. On January 30, 2012, the case was dismissed because the Department of the Navy admitted to conducting a supplemental EIS to address its errors.

Moving forward, the Navy must prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). Mr. Adams hopes that the SEIS will not only consider the effects on Pågat, but also the effects on the greater infrastructure of all of Guam. Initial discussions have cut the build-up to half the number of troops originally contemplated. However, Mr. Adams cautions that the final number is still up in the air. Mr. Adams agreed with audience members that the Navy should consider moving the firing range to existing vacant military land, but relayed the Navy’s claims that they are saving the area in case native species eventually return. In any event, Mr. Adams believes that the litigation and events leading up to it raised community awareness of the importance of Pågat and increased general preservation of the area. Mr. Adams recognized the importance that the Guam Legislature, as well as the larger community, played in the process. He also stressed the importance of continued community involvement. Ultimately, Mr. Adams expressed confidence that the community would remain involved in the process, and promised that SNR Denton would also remain engaged.

For a video of the colloquium in its entirety, please click here.