- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
A federal judge dismissed Puerto Rico's lawsuit to stop the federal government from resuming Navy bombing exercises on the territory's island of Vieques. The Puerto Rican government yesterday said it would appeal.
U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler said that while the political and policy issues surrounding the case were complex, "the legal issue, in contrast, is simple and straightforward."
Puerto Rico had filed its complaint last year after Gov. Sila Calderon signed a law banning loud noises along the island's shores. That law cited the U.S. Noise Control Act of 1972, which allows states or, as in Puerto Rico's case, U.S. territories to enact noise-control laws.
In a ruling issued Monday, Judge Kessler said she must dismiss Puerto Rico's case "for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction."
She said the federal Noise Control Act "does not provide plaintiff a cause of action to sue in federal district court for the violations alleged."
Puerto Rican Justice Secretary Anabelle Rodriguez pledged to appeal the ruling.
"We think the decision is erroneous," she said in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
"It's sad," said Nellie Rodriguez, wife of the Vieques mayor, Damaso Serrano. "We'll have to keep fighting another way, for example, by putting a lot of pressure on the president."
President Bush has said he wants the Navy to end its training on Vieques by 2003, but many in Puerto Rico question whether the U.S. war in Afghanistan will prompt him to back away from the commitment.
In addition, Congress passed legislation last month that would bar the Navy secretary from closing the site until he and top military leaders certify the availability of a site or sites that would provide "equivalent or superior" levels of training.
A Pentagon spokesman would not comment because he had not seen the ruling.
Puerto Rican researchers have linked heart disease and other health problems found among Vieques residents to naval gunfire and pollutants released during military exercises.
The Navy denies the accusations.
Opposition to the Navy's use of Vieques erupted after a jet dropped two errant bombs in 1999 that killed a civilian Puerto Rican guard.
The Navy owns about half of Vieques, and the bombing range covers 900 acres on the island's eastern tip.


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