NRDC Joins Boycott of Navy "Meet and Greets" in the Pacific Northwest

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Today, the Navy is holding the first of nine “meet and greets” in the Pacific Northwest(and one up in Alaska) on their upcoming analysis of environmental impacts resulting from training and testing activities in the waters of the Pacific Northwest.  The meetings are scheduled to take place throughout the remainder of the month in places like Tillamook, Oregon, Quilcene, Washington, and Fort Bragg, California – although no meetings are scheduled in Washington or Oregon’s major population centers (sorry Seattle and Portland).

You won’t find me at any of these meetings.  NRDC and other organizations are boycotting the information sessions because they fail to provide an opportunity for meaningful public participation and because the Navy and the National Marine Fisheries Service – the agency that is responsible for the protection of marine mammals in U.S. waters – have repeatedly dismissed our concerns for this training area.  We sent a letter to the agencies today letting them know we will not be attending.

Ostensibly, such meetings are supposed to help agencies identify issues for analysis and give the public an opportunity to make recommendations about the analysis.  According to the White House Counsel on Environmental Quality, “Some of the most constructive and beneficial interaction between the public and an agency occurs when citizens identify or develop reasonable alternatives that the agency can evaluate in the [Environmental Impact Statement].” 

If only it were so.

In reality, the Navy has invited the public to poster-board sessions where the Navy will have a series of “stations” covering various topics about their proposed activities, the impacts from their activities, and how the Navy considers itself a great steward of the environment.  The stations will be manned by Navy personnel and contractors and the public is invited to attend the open houses, read materials, and have discussions at each station. 

You can learn about the Navy’s pre-determined alternatives of current training, more training, or even more training (none of which identify means of achieving the agencies’ purposes and needs in ways that will result in different environmental impacts) and you can submit comments – but only in writing – You will not be allowed to testify or speak to a broader audience at these sessions.

We’ve been down this road before.

NRDC and others have repeatedly called for greater protections for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and other biologically important areas, a lessening of harms to species threatened by the Navy’s activities (such as the endangered Southern Resident killer whale and the harbor porpoise), and seasonally-based measures to protect migrating and foraging whales.  Our concerns have been dismissed, leading NRDC and others to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service in federal court for failing to do more to protect whales and dolphins injured by the Navy’s activities.

We’ll submit our concerns to the Navy in writing, like we always do, but we won’t be returning to any “meet and greets” until theses agencies start rejecting business as usual and finally make it clear they are willing to do more to protect marine mammals from harm and create opportunities for meaningful participation.