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Soundings Archive

Navy and NGOs Settle Sonar Litigation
After losing the Navy sonar case in the Supreme Court, the NGO plaintiffs have settled the case. The terms include the Navy paying the plaintiffs over a million dollars in attorneys fees.

The settlement does not prohibit the plaintiffs from bring future sonar suits against the Navy, but it does require "a cooling off period to permit negotiation between plaintiffs and the Navy when future sonar disagreements arise."

The settlement also "sets out a schedule for environmental compliance pursuant to which the Navy will prepare and issue environmental statements for sonar exercises and ranges around the world."

The Natural Resources Defense Council is one of the plaintiffs. Joel Reynolds was one of NRDC's lawyers in the case. There follows part of Mr. Reynolds' blog posting about the settlement:

"Since our lawsuit was filed, and as a result of other cases that we have pursued since 2002, the Navy has now begun to prepare and issue Environmental Impact Statements ("EISs") for their major exercises and proposed sonar ranges, thereby addressing one of the major legal issues in the case.

In all, the five-part settlement that the Navy agreed to late last week includes:

  • Public disclosure of previously classified information on sonar use.
  • $14.75 million dollars in funding for new marine mammal research that was specifically identified by the environmental plaintiffs.
  • A 120-day process for negotiation with the Navy when future sonar proposals are finalized and disagreements arise.
  • $1.1 million dollars in attorneys' fees for time spent on this case and a 2006 sonar case in Hawaii.
The agreement does not require the Navy to institute any specific measures that it has utilized in the past to protect whales, because those are matters of continuing disagreement among the parties. But the agreement reflects both progress over the past five years by the Navy in its attention to environmental compliance requirements and the mutual interest of all parties in transparency, more thorough environmental review, and focused research.

And while it establishes a formal process for negotiation with the Navy that may avoid future litigation, it does not foreclose litigation as an option where necessary.
  • Click here to read Mr. Reynolds' blog posting

    Copyright 2005 The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness.
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