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Judge Weighs Whether To Overrule President Bush on Sonar Testing

A federal judge has to decide whether to overrule President Bush on sonar testing restrictions. The Navy wants to conduct the tests off the San Diego coast. Environmental groups claim the exercises ha

Judge Weighs Whether To Overrule President Bush on Sonar Testing

A federal judge has to decide whether to overrule President Bush on sonar testing restrictions. The Navy wants to conduct the tests off the San Diego coast. Environmental groups claim the exercises harms marine life.  KPBS Environmental Reporter Ed Joyce has more.

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The Navy wants U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper to toss out her restrictions on sonar training. They say waivers granted by President Bush makes her rulings invalid.  At the same time Judge Cooper is also considering a challenge to the waivers from the Natural Resources Defense Council.  NRDC Attorney Cara Horowitz.

Horowitz: Well the Navy's clearly trying to get out from the orders of the judiciary here which has repeatedly told it that its exercises are unlawful. And that it needs to change the way it does these exercises in order to protect marine life. The Navy just simply won't except those decrees and is deciding to attempt to use these Bush Administration waivers to get out from under them.

San Diego attorney Dan Eaton says Judge Cooper will look at whether her restrictions impact the unique training the Navy says is vital to national security.

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Eaton: The President clearly has the authority to issue an exemption from the Judge's order. That is very clear from the language of the law. The question is whether the President over-stepped his bounds with respect to the authority that the Coastal Zone Management Act gives him to issue this particular exemption.

The executive director of the California Coastal Commission called the exemption unprecedented.

Scientists say loud sonar can damage marine mammal brains and ears. The Navy says they're already taking extensive measures to protect marine mammals. Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

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