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Okinawa mulls handling Environmental Assessment

Date Posted: 2012-01-13

The clock is ticking toward a legal deadline for Okinawa to make a decision on how to handle the environmental impact assessment report submitted by the Japanese central government.

Governor Hirokazu Nakaima must decide by March 27th on what sort of an opinion he wants to render on the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station relocation project to Henoko in northern Okinawa. Nakaima can approval the report, which isn’t likely given his opposition, or he can ask Tokyo to submit revisions, or he can flat out reject it. A rejection by Okinawa’s governor would then put the ball in Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s court. Tokyo would have options of passing a law granting the central government authority to approve the land reclamation necessary for the project, or to bring a lawsuit against Okinawa demanding it reconsider.

Nakaima had briefly considered rejecting the environmental report on grounds Tokyo had failed to submit the required number of copies of the report, as required by an Okinawa ordinance. He went ahead and accepted it after Tokyo submitted additional copies.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura called upon Okinawa to let “procedures move forward without further trouble.” The report submission is one of the final elements of a process that began in 2007 to move the controversial airbase from Ginowan to a sparsely populated area in the north.

Nakaima can expedite the development project by approving the land reclamation, but he’s said repeatedly he has no intention of doing so. As noted Fujumura, the government’s top spokesman, Nakaima’s taking a negative stance will further prolong the relocation of Futenma.

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