US court denies motion to dismiss lawsuit over Pagan, Tinian training

DISTRICT Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona on Friday declined to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the U.S. military’s plan to conduct live-fire training in the CNMI.

The court’s decision paves the way for the litigation of the Navy’s plans to transfer 5,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam and to stage massive live-fire war games on Pagan and Tinian.

The lawsuit was filed through attorney David Henkin of Earthjustice by the Tinian Women Association, Guardians of Gani, Pagan Watch and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Earthjustice is a nonprofit environmental law organization.

In her decision, Judge Manglona also dismissed the claim that the Navy should have considered alternate stationing and training locations for the Marines who relocating from Okinawa as part of an agreement with Japan.

But she said the lawsuit over whether the Navy violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider all of the impacts of the relocation and training in a single Environmental Impact Statement will continue.

The Department of Defense and the Navy have asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction, and that the lawsuit presents a political question because the U.S. executive branch decided to relocate the Marines as part of a treaty negotiated with Japan.

The defendants also argued that a ruling requires the court to conduct foreign affairs, which is a power constitutionally committed to the political branches.

In a statement, attorney David Henkin of Earthjustice said: “We are thankful the judge reaffirmed that the military is not above the law. Before deciding to move thousands of Marines to the Marianas, the Navy should have considered the devastation to Tinian and Pagan from the live-fire training those Marines will need to perform their mission. The people of Tinian and Pagan will now have their day in court to challenge this existential threat to their homelands.”

According to Earthustice, the training proposed for Tinian and Pågan would be intense and destructive. “War games would include artillery, mortars, rockets, amphibious assaults, attack helicopters and warplanes and, on Pagan, ship-to-shore naval bombardment. The training would destroy native forests and coral reefs, kill native wildlife — including endangered species — and destroy prime farmland.”

Earthjustice added that “communities on Tinian — mostly indigenous Chamorro and low-income residents — would be subjected to high-decibel noise, as well as restricted access to traditional fishing grounds, cultural sites and recreational beaches. Cultural and historic sites would be destroyed. Families evacuated from Pagan in 1981 would never be able to return, their former home turned into a militarized wasteland.”

Source: Marianas Variety :

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