Judge Rules Against Navy in Lawsuit Over Growler Expansion


A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the Navy violated the National Environmental Policy Act during its environmental review process for the expansion of the Growler jet fleet at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

The ruling by District Court Judge Richard A. Jones stated the Navy failed to disclose the basis for greenhouse gas emissions calculations, failed to quantify the impact on classroom learning, failed to take a hard look at species-specific impacts on birds, and failed to give detailed consideration to the Navy base in El Centro, California, as an alternative for Growler expansion.

According to a news release from the state Attorney General's Office, which brought the suit, the judge's ruling regarding greenhouse gas impacts and the El Centro location were part of a lawsuit filed by Citizens of Ebey's Reserve.

The two-page ruling by Jones adopted the recommendation of a U.S. federal magistrate, who issued a 38-page report and recommendation in December in favor of state Attorney General Bob Ferguson's lawsuit.

The release said the state and the other parties now have 30 days to either agree on a remedy or on a briefing schedule to come up with a remedy.

Citizens of Ebey's Reserve said in a news release that since last winter the organization has attempted to engage the Navy in good-faith dialog.

"The only response from the Navy, has been along the lines of, 'We'll get back to you on that,'" Citizens of Ebey's Reserve President Robert Wilbur said in the release.

The Navy decided in March 2019 to authorize a significant expansion of its Growler program at NAS Whidbey Island, increasing flight operations to more than 110,000 per year, the Attorney General Office said in its release.

In July of that year, Ferguson filed a lawsuit arguing that the Navy violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the federal Administrative Procedure Act by improperly analyzing the impact the Growler expansion would have on human and environmental health.

This lawsuit was announced and filed concurrently with a similar lawsuit from Citizens of Ebey's Reserve.

"The Navy has an important job," Ferguson said in the release. "But 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. Today the judge ruled that the Navy fell short of its obligation."