Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bush Exempts Navy From Court Order Limiting Sonar Exercises

President Bush - in response to a court order from earlier this month - has issued a waiver that exempts the United States Navy from limiting sonar exercises seen as harmful to whales.

Los Angeles, CA (AHN) - The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said it will appeal an unprecedented waiver issued by President Bush Wednesday that overrides a federal court order requiring the U.S. Navy to minimize harm to whales and dolphins during sonar exercises off Southern California.

President Bush gave the Navy the waiver under the Coastal Zone Management Act and allowed the Navy a second "emergency" waiver under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Both waivers must survive court review for the Navy to legally ignore the injunction.

"The use of mid-frequency active sonar ... are in the paramount interest of the United States," said Bush in a memorandum to the Defense Department.

The U.S. District Court on Jan. 3 required the Navy, among other measures, to maintain a 12 nautical mile no-sonar buffer zone along the California coastline; to shut down sonar when marine mammals were spotted within 2,000 meters; and to monitor for marine mammals using various methods.

"This is not a national security issue. The Navy doesn't need to harm whales to train effectively with sonar. It simply chooses to for the sake of convenience," said Joel Reynolds, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at NRDC, which obtained the injunction against the Navy.

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