Saturday, March 1, 2008
Whales win again
What will the White House do now that a federal appeals court has rejected Bush administration efforts to exempt the U.S. Navy from complying with the National Environmental Policy Act in testing sonar on the southern coast of California? Yesterday, a three-judge panel largely upheld last month's decision by a federal judge requiring the Navy to protect marine life if it wanted to test its sonar equipment within 12 miles of the coast. A coalition of environmental groups, led by the National Resource Defense Council, had sued to block the testing because it is believed to harm whales and other marine mammals. President Bush issued an executive order exempting the navy from the Coastal Zone Management Act on the basis of national security, but U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper said he did not have the authority to overrule NEPA. "The Navy must be environmentally responsible when training with high intensity sonar, and . . . doing so won't interfere with military readiness," said Joel Reynolds, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's marine mammal protection project, in a statement today. If nothing else, the Navy is expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court within 30 days. And as we have seen, anything can happen when the high court gets its hands on the case.