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Post date: June 29 2001

Spitzer Supports Vieques Lawsuit Seeking Compliance With Environmental Standards

New York State Attorney General Spitzer today filed a friend-of-the-court brief in federal district court in Washington, D.C. arguing that federal agencies, including United States military installations, must comply with state and local noise control and environmental standards.

The case, brought by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico against the U.S. Navy in connection with bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, seeks compliance with the Federal Noise Control Act of 1972, which requires the military to adhere to local noise pollution control laws. In the lawsuit, the government of Puerto Rico argues that the U.S. Navy's bombing and shelling exercises on the inhabited island of Vieques violate noise control standards under Puerto Rico law, and therefore also violate the Federal Noise Control Act. Enforced compliance with noise control standards could end Navy bombing and shelling exercises on Vieques, which is home to over 9,000 residents.

"States have an obligation to protect the health and safety of their citizens; ensuring compliance with environmental standards is part of that obligation" Spitzer said. "Under the Federal Noise Control Act, federal agencies are held to the same standard as everyone else."

The high levels of noise associated with firing exercises violate Puerto Rico's noise control limits and contribute to various health problems experienced by Vieques residents. For example, each projectile fired from the 5-inch/54-caliber Mark 45 guns fired during training generates two sonic booms. Excessive noise has long been found to have serious physiological effects, including deafness, enhanced risk of cardiovascular disease, and alteration of fetal nervous systems. The Navy's training exercises on Vieques have subjected that island 's population to continued exposure to high levels of noise causing significant harm.

The amicus brief filed by Spitzer and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal argues that federal agencies, including the military, must comply with state and local noise control and environmental laws.

The states of New York and Connecticut have a strong stake in ensuring that the U.S. District Court interprets the Noise Control Act to require the U.S. Navy to comply with Puerto Rico's environmental laws, because this will impact the Act's application to other states.

The Commonwealth has submitted a motion for summary judgment and the case is being heard on an expedited basis.