or several decades, and in a variety of contexts, national security and environmental protection interests have clashed. Balancing these competing concerns is a challenging task. However, in the wake of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government “drastically changed its approach to how it handled important environmental concerns in relation to national
The most common manifestation of the tensions between national security and environmental protection objectives is the Navy’s use of sonar in U.S. waters. The oceans that surround the United States on both coasts provide the U.S. Navy with an indispensable buffer zone in which to test and implement national security objectives. Advancing these important objectives for the
safety and welfare of the nation’s citizens must, however, be tempered by the equally compelling need for vigilant stewardship of marine living resources.
Part 1 of this article considers the importance of the Navy’s use of sonar to promote national security objectives and reviews the impacts that this practice has on marine mammals. Part 2 provides a brief history of cases under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) challenging the Navy’s use of sonar and its impacts on marine mammals. It also addresses the emergency exception under NEPA and how the Navy’s assertion of this exception set the stage for the conflict in Winter v. NRDC. Part 3 addresses the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Winter and considers the unanswered questions that remain in its wake. Part 4 proposes possible future
directions for regulating Navy sonar in the wake of Bush era national security policies. It concludes that the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) should be amended to include a citizen suit provision to enhance protection of marine mammals from the effects of ocean noise in a manner that does not undermine national security objectives. It also endorses the need for additional substantive safeguards such as regional cooperation and safe havens for marine mammals
in new legislation and regulations that go beyond the piecemeal “temporary fix” of protection for marine mammals that can be secured in a successful NEPA challenge.
Randall S. Abate, (2010) NEPA, National Security, and Ocean Noise: The Past, Present, and Future of Regulating the Impact of Navy Sonar on Marine Mammals, Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy, 13:4, 326-356.