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Appeals court: Damn the whales, full steam ahead

It seems like every year at this time, the Navy wants to use sonar in training exercises off the California coast, and every time the issue winds up in court. This year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals gave the Navy the thumbs up, Reuters reports.

It seems like every year at this time, the Navy wants to use sonar in training exercises off the California coast, and every time the issue winds up in court. This year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals gave the Navy the thumbs up, Reuters reports. There is one proviso - after these exercises the Navy should promulgate regulations to protect the whales. This ruling, from a three-judge panel, comes after a different panel ruled on the issue in August. A U.S. District Court judge had blocked the tests, siding with environmental groups which said the sonar harms whales. In August, a 9th Circuit panel stayed that injunction in a 2-1 ruling. The dissenting judge pointed out that the Navy had used environmental mitigation measures from 2006 to January 2007. The new order allows the current training - due to be complete by Nov. 22 - to go forward without mitigation but then reinstates the district court's injunction. The court ordered:

The district court shall then conduct whatever hearings it deems reasonable or necessary, and enter an appropriate preliminary injunction by January 4, 2008, the earliest approximate date at which the Navy plans its next exercise.

If the district court fails to modify the preliminary injunction so as to include mitigation measures by January 4, 2008, the Navy may make a motion before this panel for reinstatement of the stay order.