Navy Growler Jet Fleet Violation of the National Environmental Policy Act

A federal judge ruled that there was a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act during the environmental review process for the expansion of the Growler jet fleet at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

This ruling stated that the Navy did not disclose its basis for greenhouse gas emissions calculations. The ruling also included that the Navy didn’t look thoroughly at the species-specific impact on birds or quantify the impact it would have on classroom learning, and also failed to consider carefully the El Centro Navy base in California as an alternative place for expansion of the fleet. This adopted the recommendation of a U.S. federal magistrate who issued a recommendation and report in December that stated they were in favor of state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit.

The Attorney General gave a press release and said that the state and various other parties have 30 days from that time to agree on a remedy or briefing schedule in order to figure out a remedy.

The Navy authorized an expansion of the NAS Whidbey Island Growler program in 2019. According to the Attorney General’s Office, this increased flight operations to over 110,000 each year. This aircraft jams communications and launch systems and it serves as a front-line force in electromagnetic warfare for the U.S. military. Training at Whidbey Island occurs at the Oak Harbor landing strip as well as a field that’s close to Coupeville in Island County. Crews conduct simulations that they’re landing on ships as they circle and perform brief touchdowns.

The Attorney General filed a lawsuit with the argument that the Navy violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. This states that the Navy didn’t properly analyze the impact on environmental and human health of the Growler expansion.  The lawsuit was filed at the same time as a similar lawsuit from Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve.

Attorney General Ferguson said in his release that “the Navy has an important job… that does not relieve the federal government of its obligation to follow the law and take a hard look at the public health and environmental impacts of its programs..the judge ruled that the Navy fell short of its obligation.”.