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On Wednesday, October 8, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council. In this case, affectionately known as the "save the whales case," the Supreme Court deals with the balance between national defense and protecting the environment. The case arises from the use of midfrequency active sonar during United States Navy submarine training exercises. Acknowledging that such sonar "may affect both the physiology and behavior of marine mammals," the Navy issued a required Environmental Assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. On claims brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council that the Navy was violating both NEPA and the Coastal Zones Management Act, a federal District Court issued a preliminary injunction restricting the Navy's use of the sonar. Neither the District Court nor the Circuit Court was willing to vacate the injunction based on the Navy's argument that it had coordinated "alternative arrangements" with the Council on Environmental Quality due to "emergency circumstances." The Supreme Court now considers whether the grant of injunctive relief was proper. Hofstra University Professor of Law Julian Ku discusses the case.
Oral Argument - October 8, 2008: