A federal judge has denied the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve’s request to compel the Navy to temporarily stop touch-and-go operations at Outlying Field Coupeville.
In a lawsuit filed by COER in 2013, the group demanded that the courts force the Navy to stop the training for the EA-18G Growler until an ongoing Environmental Impact Statement could be completed. The EIS is scheduled for completion in 2017.
For the last few years, COER has advocated against the Navy’s flight of the Growler over residential areas, arguing that the electronic attack aircraft is too loud and causes mental and physical health issues.
Judge Thomas Zilly said in the 29-page ruling however, that “the court concludes that plaintiff has not established a likelihood of success on the merits, has not sufficiently demonstrated that its members will suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction, and has not shown that the balance of equities or the public interest weigh in its favor.”
Zilly bolstered his Aug. 11 ruling with case law that states that the type of injunction requested by COER is an “extraordinary and drastic remedy” and that the burden of proof falls on them to prove its necessity.
The judge noted that the 13 declarations filed by those claiming degradation of health caused by the jet noise did, “on their face, present serious questions about the current noise levels at OLF Coupeville.”
However, these declarations did not provide reliable evidence to support the claims, Zilly said. Citing case law, Zilly argued that it is difficult to detect a difference between those who dislike or fear government action, and those who suffer from real anxiety or stress.
For this reason, Zilly said “several of the declarations directly undermine this necessary causal connection.”
“The Supreme Court has warned that courts should exercise caution when considering complaints of anxiety and stress related to government action in the context of NEPA challenges,” Zilly said.
For these reasons and others Zilly concluded that “the plaintiff has not met the burden of showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits… or that the balance of equities or public interest weigh in its favor.”
“The Navy is pleased with today’s decision,” according to Mike Welding, public affairs officer at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. “We will continue work on the Environmental Impact Statement that will analyze the possibility of bringing additional aircraft to NAS Whidbey Island. The draft version of that document is scheduled to be released to the public sometime next spring.”
A request for comment from COER was not immediately answered.