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Federal appeals court lets US Navy use sonar despite environmental objections

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [PDF text] Friday that the US Navy can use high-powered sonar in training exercises off the California coast, granting the Navy's request to for a stay on an injunction granted by a lower court while the Navy appeals that decision. The Natural Resources Defense Council [advocacy website] sued the Navy, arguing that Navy's decision to "medium frequency active sonar" without preparing a full environmental impact statement violated several federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act [EPA materials], the Endangered Species Act [PDF text], the Administrative Procedures Act [text] and the Coastal Zone Management Act [text]. A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction [NRDC press release] in August, blocking the Navy from proceeding with the exercises.

The Ninth Circuit put a stay on that injunction while the Navy appeals the ruling, holding that "the Navy's probability of at least partial success on the merits is high." The court also noted:

The public does indeed have a very considerable interest in preserving our natural environment and especially relatively scarce whales. But it also has an interest in national defense. We are currently engaged in war, in two countries. There are no guarantees extending from 2007 to 2009 or at any other time against other countries deciding to engage us, or our determining that it is necessary to engage other countries. The safety of the whales must be weighed, and so must the safety of our warriors. And of our country.
AP has more.

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