Judge rejects Navy’s environmental review that ignored noise

Photo credit: AvgeekJoe licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Earlier this month, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the Navy violated federal law by failing to conduct a study that would adequately assess the noise impacts of the expanded Whidbey Island jet operations on classroom learning and other shortcomings. Hal Bernton, The Seattle Times, reports that the decision came in response to two lawsuits by the state Attorney General’s Office and the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve.

A review of the Navy’s environmental impact statement found that it had failed to look closely at data that “did not support the goal of increasing Growler jet operations from the air station at Whidbey Island.” In addition to failing to assess the effects of the noise on students, the Navy’s report did not disclose how it assessed greenhouse-gas-emissions from the increased jet operations. Furthermore, the report did not sufficiently examine the impacts of the noise on bird species nor did it give appropriate attention to an alternative training site.

Bernton writes that considering that Washington has long hosted military bases that have brought much federal funding to the state, the ruling is “a rare challenge of a Pentagon decision.” He adds that while the Attorney General recognized the importance of the Navy for our welfare, that didn’t mean that it can ignore the law by not taking a “hard look at the public health and environmental impacts of its programs.”

The many residents who live in communities adversely affected by aircraft noise should be pleased that a decision was made that said there should be a hard look at public health and environmental effects of overhead aircraft.

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