The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Debbie Davidson (202) 265-7337

Lame Duck Laurel to NOAA Staff for Anti-Whale Work

Supreme Court Sonar Ruling Product of NOAA Appointee with Track Record


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
    the species";
  • 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
dirty work."


Read the Gold Medal presentation

View the White House exemption order

Read the Lecky letter telling NOAA biologists to ignore global warming

Revisit Lecky role in causing massive Klamath fish kill

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.