Whales vs. U.S. Navy: a clash of federal powers

The power of the U.S. president to override environmental laws is a central issue in the sonar case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a story posted shortly after noon today on the Kitsap Sun’s Web site, Mark Sherman of the Associated Press reported that Justice David Souter ridiculed the idea that the administration could declare an emergency to try to get around complying with environmental laws. The Navy opted not to conduct a more rigorous environmental impact study before beginning the long-planned exercises, Souter said.

“If there’s an emergency, it’s one the Navy created simply by failing to start EIS preparation in a timely way,” he said.

The Bush administration has taken the position that the president has the authority to override environmental laws during emergencies. He essentially declared an emergency to make sure the Navy could adequately train to locate enemy submarines, an issue related to national security.

Justice Samuel Alito suggested that he found little evidence in the court record that marine mammals would be harmed by the sonar use proposed by the Navy, Sherman reported.

Alito also said there was “something incredibly odd” that a single federal judge, who issued the first order against the Navy in this case, would be able to force changes in the exercises.

Warren Richey of the Christian Science Monitor lays out the background of the case in a story yesterday.

“Call this story ‘save the whales’ meets ‘The Hunt for Red October,’ Richey writes.

“The case doesn’t simply pit the environment against national security,” he continues. “It is also a major clash over power – the power of judges to order environmental compliance versus the power of the president and the executive branch to defend the nation. But at its most basic, the case is about whales and warfare.”

HERE ARE SOME ADDITIONAL STORIES ABOUT TODAY’S SUPREME COURT HEARING

MSNBC Nightly News: Click on “The Sound and the Fury…”

Fox News

Los Angeles Times

Miami Herald

USA Today

CNN

New York Times

One thought on “Whales vs. U.S. Navy: a clash of federal powers

  1. “…power of judges to order environmental compliance versus the power of the president and the executive branch to defend the nation….”

    Yes.
    I wonder if it is legal or politically correct to ask the nationality of the judge who put the nation’s security below the not proved chance a whale could be injured? That judge was biased and I wonder why he didn’t use reason and real FACTS in his judgment?

    “…But at its most basic, the case is about whales and warfare.”…”

    Warren Richey of the Christian Science Monitor doesn’t go far enough. The case is about possible injury to whales v training exercises to help keep our country free and our legal system working as best it can in a ‘free’ society.

    If the whales were of any real concern, the tribes wouldn’t be allowed to slaughter them for no real purpose, poisons wouldn’t be allowed into our waterways poisoning our food chain on up to the whales eating toxic fish.

    To cripple our national defense in the guise of possible, not proved, whale injury is to wonder about the real agenda of such a judge. What is his nationality and/or the nationality of his loved ones?
    In my opinion… Sharon O’Hara

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