Nov. 13, 2008
In a case that resembled a mix between a Tom Clancy novel and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Navy can use its active sonar when conducting drills and fleet operations off the California coast. Environmental groups had argued that active sonar pinging could be harmful to marine mammals, and thus ought not to be permitted. The Navy countered that such fleet operations are necessary to keep our forces up to snuff in their sub-hunting abilities in the event of a naval war.
The short of it is that an environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, sued the Navy arguing that they failed to issue an environmental impact report for their exercises in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). A district court judge saw things the same way, and the Navy agreed to issue the report, but chafed at the sonar-use restrictions placed upon them by the court. President Bush stepped in, directing that the Navy be exempt in this case from the NEPA because these sub-hunting exercises are necessary for national security in time of war. Unsurprisingly, the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and upheld the lower ruling, resulting in yesterday's Supreme Court decision, which had a comfortable 6-3 margin.
Some readers might recognize this case from the Court Jesters segment at our Values Voters Summit back in September. (Phyllis Schlafly wrote a poem about it.) It's very refreshing to see that-at least for now-we have a Supreme Court willing to correct the silliness of activist judges.