We mentioned here yesterday that the Supreme Court this week refused to hear a case brought by environmentalists against the Bush administration for waiving environmental laws to build the U.S.-Mexico border fence. What they did decide to consider, however, is an appeal from the U.S. Navy protesting a ban on high-powered sonar near coastal California. Today’s Los Angeles Times lays out the conflict:
The intense sound waves from the sonar are believed to frighten, injure and possibly kill whales. But the two sides differ greatly on the extent of the effects.
Environmentalists point to studies of dead whales that washed ashore in the Bahamas, Canary Islands and Madeira islands after the Navy conducted war games nearby. Some of the animals appeared to have died of hemorrhages in and around their ears, brains and lungs. They also said the Navy’s own studies forecast that training exercises off the California coast would "significantly disturb" an estimated 170,000 marine mammals.
But the Navy said training exercises using sonar have been conducted for 40 years off California, and they "produced no evidence of sonar-related harm to any marine mammal." Of special note, there are no reports of dead whales after these exercises, they said.
The court is scheduled to hear the case this fall. No whales are expected to testify.