( dpa )- President George W Bush has exempted the Navy from an environmental law regulating the use of sonar off the California coast, the White House said Wednesday.
Bush determined that the Navy needs to use the mid-frequency sonar to effectively train for anti-submarine warfare "in support of worldwide operational and combat activities, which are essential to national security."
The law is designed to protect marine life from the harmful effects of sonar, which environmentalists believe can be lethal to whales and often causes them to beach themselves.
The Navy and environmental activists have been in a legal dispute over the practice for years. The Navy maintains that it takes steps to minimize the risk to marine life.
Bush's decision exempts the Navy from a January 3 decision by a US District Court that would require surface fleets to maintain a 12- nautical mile buffer zone along the California coast, and to shut down the sonar when marine mammals are spotted within 2,000 metres .
"By exempting the Navy from basic safeguards under both federal and state law, the president is flouting the will of Congress, the decision of the California Coastal Commission, and a ruling by the federal court," said Joel Reynolds, the director of mammal protection at the National Resources Defence Council.