Groups ask court to enforce order to compel Navy, Defense

The four environmental and preservation groups have requested the federal court to enforce its February 2018 order that compels the U.S. Department of Navy and the U.S. Department of Defense to add additional four documents to the record in their lawsuit over the Navy’s decision to relocate 5,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam and to conduct live-training on Tinian and Pagan.

The groups, through counsel David L. Henkin of Earthjustice, and Kimberlyn K. King-Hinds, asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to order Navy and DOD immediately to begin the process of identifying, compiling and reviewing the documents the court identified in its Feb. 12 order as needed to complete the administrative record in this case.

In her Feb. 12 order, Chief Judge Ramona Manglona ordered the Navy, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, DOD, and DOD Secretary James Mattis to compete the administrative record in this case within 30 days.

Manglona said the groups have adequately shown that the four disputed documents were considered by Navy and DOD in connection with the supplemental environmental impact statement about relocating Marines to Guam and therefore must be lodged as part of the record.

The four documents refer to the final training needs assessment dated April 2012 and revised in March 2013; final CNMI Joint Military Training Requirements and Siting Study dated January 2013 and revised March 2013; March 14, 2013 Federal Register notice announcing the Navy’s intent to prepare the CNMI Joint Military Training; and the draft CNMI Joint Military Training EIS/overseas EIS dated April 2015.

The groups—Tinian Women Association, Guardians of Gani, Pagan Watch, and the Center for Biological Diversity—are suing defendants Navy, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, DOD, and DOD Secretary James Mattis for alleged violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and Administrative Procedure Act.

The groups claim that the Navy and DOD have violated NEPA and APA by failing to consider the relocation efforts and potential construction of live-fire training ranges on Tinian and Pagan as “connected actions” in a single environmental impact statement.

The groups then filed the motion to complete the administrative record, alleging that that the record is incomplete because the four documents and materials underlying these documents are not included.

The groups filed last Friday the motion to enforce the Feb. 12 order. Henkin asked the court to order defendants comply with the order to avoid prejudicial delay in reaching the merits of this case.

Henkin said the mere fact that defendants intend to seek reconsideration of the court’s order to complete the administrative record does not give defendants license to ignore the court’s command to compile the documents necessary to complete the record by the court-ordered March 14, 2018 deadline.

Henkin said defendants’ refusal to even to begin the process of gathering the missing record documents until after a ruling on their as-yet-unfiled motion for reconsideration is completely unjustified and would severely prejudice the groups by imposing lengthy delays in reaching the merits of this case.

Henkin said last Feb. 28, defendants’ counsel responded that, until this court rules on their motion to reconsider, which will not occur until sometime after the March 14 deadline to complete the record, defendants will not make any effort to identify and gather any of the missing documents.

Henkins said while defendants are entitled to seek reconsideration of the court’s order, to complete the record, they should not be permitted to further delay these proceedings by waiting until after a ruling on their motion even to begin the process of locating and reviewing the missing record documents.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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