Supreme Court rules for the Navy in use of sonar around whales

The U.S. Supreme Court has lifted restrictions imposed by a federal district judge on the use of sonar around marine mammals. The syllabus of the court decision includes this:

The preliminary injunction is vacated to the extent challenged by the Navy. The balance of equities and the public interest—which were barely addressed by the District Court—tip strongly in favor of the Navy. The Navy’s need to conduct realistic training with active sonar to respond to the threat posed by enemy submarines plainly outweighs the interests advanced by the plaintiffs.

And this:

A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right. In each case, courts must balance the competing claims of injury and consider the effect of granting or withholding the requested relief, paying particular regard to the public consequences… Military interests do not always trump other considerations, and the Court has not held that they do, but courts must give deference to the professional judgment of military authorities concerning the relative importance of a particular military interest….

The use of MFA (mid-frequency active) sonar under realistic conditions during training exercises is clearly of the utmost importance to the Navy and the Nation. The Court does not question the importance of plaintiffs’ ecological, scientific, and recreational interests, but it concludes that the balance of equities and consideration of the overall public interest tip strongly in favor of the Navy. The determination of where the public interest lies in this case does not strike the Court as a close question.

The court said, in an opinion supported by six justices, that any restrictions should come after an environmental impact statement, and it warned that permanent court restrictions of similar nature would be an “abuse of discretion.”

This Court does not address the underlying merits of plaintiffs’ claims, but the foregoing analysis makes clear that it would also be an abuse of discretion to enter a permanent injunction along the same lines as the preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs’ ultimate legal claim is that the Navy must prepare an EIS, not that it must cease sonar training.

Review the sonar decision (PDF 308 kb) for yourself and take a look at this Associated Press story by Mark Sherman, which was posted soon after the decision came out.

Updated story by the AP Writer Pete Yost

Stay tuned for reactions and further discussion.

One thought on “Supreme Court rules for the Navy in use of sonar around whales

  1. Nobody ‘wants’ ‘blasting ear-shattering ‘ – anything, anywhere. No one wants to harm ANY part of our environment – other than the powers that be allowing the poisoning of our waterways, making this country the second leading country in the world for organic waterway pollution.

    Are you proud too? You don’t seem to fuss over the environment itself killing our wonderful creatures…only to stop the Navy from training.

    Where is the unbiased research and studies done to prove your accusations because if national defense is a deterrent, training is vital. The Navy’s mission is to protect their country and citizens of this country.

    How about putting some of that angry energy to work cleaning up our whales home and our waterways?

    Our wonderful whales needn’t remain in the toxic mess they are today if you put energy into their everyday, every moment environment and help clean it up – not waste time and money suing to stop Navy training.

    Help clean up our water…campaign to help make it clean again. Please, for the whales sake.
    Sharon O’Hara

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