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US asks federal court to lift remaining restrictions on Navy sonar use

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice asked US District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper Wednesday to lift a preliminary injunction restricting the US Navy's use of sonar along the coast of Southern California. President Bush granted an exemption [JURIST report] earlier this month allowing the Navy to continue using sonar, after which Cooper eased portions of the order [order, PDF]. The DOJ argued that the exemption fell within Bush's scope of duties and asked the court to remove the injunction or, in the alternative, maintain the current partial restrictions. Lawyers for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) [advocacy website] say that Bush's action was unconstitutional and asked the court to re-impose the full injunction [PDF text] creating a 12-nautical mile zone along the coast in which the use of sonar is forbidden.

Bush's order came despite a November 2007 ruling [PDF text; NRDC press release] by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that the Navy should limit its use of high-powered sonar. Bush exempted the Navy from the requirements of several environmental laws, including the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) [text], on the basis of national security, but the NRDC warned that sonar is harmful to whales and other marine animals [press release], characterizing the presidential waiver as "an attack on the rule of law." AP has more.

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