For Immediate Release
Lame Duck Laurel to NOAA Staff for Anti-Whale Work
Supreme Court Sonar Ruling Product of NOAA Appointee with Track Record
WASHINGTON - Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling allowing the U.S. Navy to deploy
sonar arrays linked to the deaths of whale and other marine mammals
reflects the legal work of the very agency that is supposed to protect
those creatures, according to documents released today by Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The presidential
order removing key legal protections for whales from naval operations
was written by the head of the Office of Protected Species within the
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
In fact, NOAA is presenting its highest honor, a gold medal, to
James Lecky, Director of NOAA's Office of Protected Species, and agency
lawyers "for exceptional legal and programmatic support in securing the
first-ever Presidential exemption under the Coastal Zone Management
Act" in a ceremony on November 18, 2008. The non-monetary award is
given for accomplishments which advance NOAA's strategic goals or
"Under the Bush administration, the Pentagon has sought and often
won environmental immunity," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.
"We will urge the Obama administration to review all these national
security exemptions and revoke those, such as this sonar action, that
are utterly unjustified."
In the view of many employees, however, Lecky's role in this case is consistent with his checkered record:
- In 2002, Lecky was the official whose actions led to a
massive fish kill on the Klamath River. The U.S. Court of Appeals for
the 9th Circuit later ruled that Lecky's handiwork "doesn't even
pretend to protect" endangered salmon and "ignores the life cycle of
- In 2005, a Commerce Office of Inspector
General report found that Lecky improperly altered a key NOAA
biological opinion on the effects of diverting Sacramento River water
from the San Francisco Bay Delta to thirsty Southern California to find
no jeopardy to threatened and endangered species. Shortly thereafter
Lecky was promoted to become the agency's Director of Protected
Resources, in which position he oversees production of all such
biological opinions; and
- This October, Lecky directed agency
biologists that since impacts on coral and other marine species as well
as effects on ocean temperatures and acidity cannot be traced to any
one source of greenhouse gas, no consultation was required on
greenhouse gas-producing projects under the Endangered Species Act.
While conceding the question was "an important issue of first
impression that is of national significance," Lecky nonetheless reached
his conclusion in only one week without consulting NOAA scientists.
"During the Bush administration, officials who commit scientific
fraud, issue illegal orders or work to undermine the public interest
are routinely promoted and rewarded," Ruch added. "In order to
transform agencies which have been perverted from their purpose, the
next administration must reach beyond the top positions into upper
management to remove those, like Jim Lecky, who are hip deep in the
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