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9th Circuit affirms dismissal of lawsuit against DoD, Navy

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THE U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed the ruling of District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona in dismissing the lawsuit of four environmental groups claiming that the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of the Navy  violated the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA.

 Circuit Judges Margaret McKeown, Andrew D. Hurwitz and Bridget S. Bade, in their 17-page ruling on Friday, stated that the district court properly granted summary judgement in favor of the Navy “because the Navy’s action was not arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise an abuse of discretion.”

 As to the environmental groups’ claim that the Navy failed to reconsider relocation alternatives beyond Guam and the CNMI, the circuit judges said, “We affirm that dismissal, but for lack of standing, concluding that the claim is not redressable because it would require renegotiation of the [U.S.-Japan] treaty.”

 The Tinian Women Association, Guardians of Gani, Pagan Watch and the Center for Biological Diversity, through attorney David Henkin of Earth Justice and local attorney Kimberlyn King-Hinds, challenged the efforts of the DOD and the Navy to relocate several thousand U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, and the plans for the Marine Corps to conduct live-fire training in the CNMI.

The environmental groups claimed that the DoD and the Navy violated NEPA in making final decisions for the relocations of the Marines to Guam.

 Judge Manglona’s Aug. 2018 ruling stated that the DoD and the Navy’s decision to limit the training and range areas to those that met the needs of the Marines being relocated from Okinawa to Guam was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.

 “The decision was rationally and reasonably based on a consideration of the factors relevant to complying with the diplomatic agreement with Japan while meeting the immediate training needs of the Marines,” she added.

 Ruling in favor of the DoD and the Navy, Judge Manglona  found that the relocation efforts and proposed range and training areas in Tinian and Pagan are not “connected actions.”

 Affirming the district court’s ruling and writing for the Ninth Circuit, Judge McKeown said, “We conclude that the Marine relocation and the placing of training facilities on Tinian are not connected purposes of an environmental impact statement” or EIS

Judge McKeown said the relocation EIS “lays out multiple reasons for the relocation of Marines from Okinawa to Guam: positioning troops to defend the United States and its Pacific territories, providing a powerful presence in the Pacific region, fulfilling a commitment to Japan, and defending American, Japanese, and other allies’ interests said the circuit judge.

 For its part, the circuit judge added, the CNMI Joint Military Training Draft EIS “explains the rationale for placing range and training facilities on Tinian and Pagan: they would ‘reduce joint training deficiencies for military services’ and be able to support ongoing operational requirements, changes to U.S. force structure, geographic repositioning of forces, and U.S. training relationships with allied nations.”


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