Monday, February 4, 2008
One for the whales
The U.S. Navy was notably reserved Monday following a federal judge's ruling that the military service must not use sonar in training exercises along the southern coast of California. "We are aware of the court's decision and we are studying it," Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Cindy Moore said in Washington, D.C. In her 36-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper said the White House did not have the authority to exempt the U.S. Navy from complying with the National Environmental Policy Act in testing sonar on the southern coast of California. Judge Cooper said there was no emergency to warrant the exemption. Environmental groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, had challenged the sonar testing because it was harmful to whales and other marine mammals. But the judge did not consider a waiver signed by President Bush on Jan. 15 exempting the Navy from complying with the Coastal Zone Management Act because, she said, she had sufficient authority under NEPA to bar the sonar testing. In an earlier ruling, Judge Cooper said the Navy could not use sonar within 12 miles of the coastline. "It's an excellent decision," said Joel Reynolds, an attorney for the NRDC. "It reinstates the proper balance between national security and environmental protection." No word from the Navy on when it will appeal.