Magistrate Takes U.S. Navy to Task for Its Jets, Lies, and Secrecy

By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, January 5, 2022

World BEYOND War has long supported efforts to stop noisy, polluting Navy jet flights over state parks in Washington State.

Now a report by Chief United States Magistrate Justice J. Richard Creatura has got the Seattle Times editorial board proposing some sort of “compromise.”

Some choice excerpts:

Here, despite a gargantuan administrative record, covering nearly 200,000 pages of studies, reports, comments, and the like, the Navy selected methods of evaluating the data that supported its goal of increasing Growler operations. The Navy did this at the expense of the public and the environment, turning a blind eye to data that would not support this intended result. Or, to borrow the words of noted sports analyst Vin Scully, the Navy appears to have used certain statistics “much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.”

When reporting on the environmental impact of Growler fuel emissions, the Navy underreported the true amount of Growler fuel emissions and failed to disclose that it was not including any emissions for flights above 3,000 feet. Even after receiving a comment on the issue, the Navy failed to disclose its underreporting and dismissed the issue with broad generalities.

With respect to the impact of this increased operation on childhood learning, the Navy acknowledged numerous studies that concluded that aircraft noise would measurably impact learning but then arbitrarily concluded that because it could not quantify exactly how the increased operations would interfere with childhood learning, no further analysis was necessary.

As to the impact of increased jet noise on various bird species, the Navy repeatedly stated that increased noise would have species-specific impacts on the many bird species in the affected area but then failed to conduct a species-specific analysis to determine if some species would be more affected than others. Instead, the Navy simply concluded that certain species were not adversely affected and then extrapolated that all the other species would not be affected, either.

Regarding evaluating reasonable alternatives to the Growler expansion at NASWI, which the Navy was required to do, the Navy rejected moving the Growler operations to El Centro, California out of hand, summarily concluding that such a move would cost too much and that moving the operation to that location would have its own environmental challenges. The Navy’s cursory rationale was arbitrary and capricious and does not provide a valid basis to reject the El Centro alternative.

For these reasons, the Court recommends that the District Court find the FEIS violated the NEPA and grant all summary judgment motions in part and deny them in part. Dkts. 87, 88, 92. Also, the Court grants plaintiffs leave to submit extra record evidence to address certain issues. Dkt. 85. Assuming the District Court follows this recommendation, it should order supplemental briefing regarding the appropriate remedy for the NEPA violations described herein.

Does this seem like a case where local Congressman and top weapons corporation lackey Adam Smith should step in and solve matters, as the Seattle Times suggests? Or does it seem more like a rare opportunity when a member of the U.S. judicial establishment has refused to bow before the God of War and blurted out “He has no clothes!” Might this not be a chance for courts to actually uphold human rights against an institution that is constantly bombing distant places in the name of human rights?

The local newspaper, the South Whidbey Record, very much wants ear-splitting, child-brain-damaging jets to keep up the sound of freedom, but local activist Tom Ewell sent them this unpublished letter:

I generally agree with the 12/15 News-Times editorial, “Lawsuit against Navy not a referendum on Growlers.” But neither is it just a referendum on noting the inadequacies of the impact study the lawsuit addresses. The most important finding in the magistrate’s report is rather to support what the critics of the Growlers have been trying to say for years now: the Navy simply feels entitled to make its own decisions, based on its self-serving data and information, with consistent disregard for the health, safety, and well-being of the people the Growler noise impacts. The magistrate’s report finally names the arrogance and irresponsible tactics the Navy has historically used to avoid and deny the damage of the excessive noise. As the report states, after thousands of pages and studies on the various negative impacts on health, children, the economy, and the environment, the Navy concludes all this doesn’t matter if it doesn’t suit their interests. And to emphasize their arrogance about the harm of the noise, they have proposed to make it worse by adding some thirty new jets to their fleet that will only increase the damage the noise creates.

The central issue has long been a disagreement about how to measure the onsite noise. Consistent with the magistrate’s condemning the Navy’s presumed right to use only information that serves their interests, the Navy has consistently held that they have only one acceptable noise standard they will recognize. They steadfastly choose to ignore the immediate noise impact people experience directly under the jets – often for hours at a time – and instead average out the offensive data by dividing it by the days of the year. Thus they are able to establish their preferential measurement that is far from the actual on-site noise level. Taken at face value, one can conclude that the Navy’s noise measurement policy is not only self serving but, to be honest, it is dishonorable.

The 12/18 So. Whidbey Record reprinted the editorial from the Everett Herald that suggests the magistrate’s report is an opportunity for negotiation. After so many years of defiance and refusal from the Navy to even consider the voices of those impacted by the Growlers without being forced to do so – and even then ignoring the data created – I am concerned about why people would now expect and trust the Navy to engage in good faith negotiations.

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