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Judge: Trident upgrade won't affect ecology

The U.S. Navy is not required to conduct an Environmental Impact Study for the Trident II (D-5) missiles at Subase Bangor, a federal judge ruled Oct. 29.

The lawsuit, filed last year by environmental and peace organizations including Ground Zero in Kitsap County, claimed the Navy should prepare an EIS to alert fish and wildlife agencies and residents of possible impacts of the nuclear devices.

“Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate any unlawfulness in the Navy’s refusal to produce an EIS which documents the possible impacts of the D-5 backfit program on the environment,” Judge Franklin Burgess wrote.

He stated the probability of an accidental detonation or mishandling of the weapons was too remote.

“The odds of winning the Washington State Lottery are 10 times more remote, but people are still buying tickets,” said Seattle-based attorney David Mann who represents the plaintiffs in the case. He said they are considering an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court.

“A decision has not been made,” he said.

The plaintiffs — Ground Zero, Waste Action Project, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Peace Justice Alliance, Mary Gleysteen and Glen Milner — have a 60-day window to decide.

The Navy said it is pleased with the decision.

“We’ve always fully complied with the laws and regulations,” said Lt. Barbara Mertz, spokesperson for Submarine Group Nine at Bangor.

In the lawsuit the plaintiffs requested the court declare the Trident D-5 missile upgrade violated the Endangered Species Act; require the Navy consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding impacts on the environment; and issue an injunction against the Navy’s upgrade.

Mann said Burgess “got carried away in the Navy’s assertions.” There is no threat.

“This should send a warning to people in the area there is a risk and people should be concerned by it,” Mann said.

“The safety threat the Trident system presents to Puget Sound is pretty unique,” he said. Because of the Hood Canal’s pristine waters and increased concern over the past 30 years to preserve it, the question is “Is this the right place to be handling the D-5 missiles?”

The explosives found on one Trident submarine loaded with D-5 missiles are equal to more than three million pounds of TNT.

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