Supreme Court OKs Navy Sonar Near Whales

5-4 decision sides with Bush administration
By Ambreen Ali,  Newser User
Posted Nov 12, 2008 12:49 PM CST
Navy Sonar technicians monitor contacts on a combat system aboard a guided missile destroyer off Southern California's coast in January.   (AP Photo/US Navy - James R. Evan)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – The Supreme Court sided 5-4 with the Bush administration today, exempting the Navy from switching off high-powered sonar near whales during training off California's coast. The piercing underwater sounds panic whales and make their ears bleed, environmentalists tell the Los Angeles Times. But the “public interest” in the exercises “plainly outweighs” those environmental concerns, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

Roberts doubted whether a whale had ever been harmed by the Navy's 4 decades of coastal activities. California's courts should not be “second-guessing” the views of Pentagon leaders, he wrote. The dissenting judges—John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer—said the Navy should complete an environmental impact study before engaging in such training. The court ruling doesn't stop the Obama administration from adopting a different policy, the Times notes.