[Coral-List] Dean Jacobson, coral reefs, the law, NEPA, and the FAA

Daniel Barshis barshis at hawaii.edu
Fri Mar 21 15:55:01 EDT 2014

Dear Coral Listers,
     I, like many of you, have been following Dean's posts and wondering
what I can do to help. Last year, June-2013, Dean and I corresponded on
this issue with the FAA and he forwarded me a response from Ron Simpson,
the FAA Manager for the Honolulu Airports District Office. Dean felt that
Mr. Simpson was the US Federal contact that held the power to invoke US law
(NEPA, EIS, EIA, etc.) regarding the runway construction and reef mining
that Dean has been messaging about for the past few years. I felt like it
might serve this user group to see Mr. Simpson's message and hear a bit
more about the legal situation in hopes that we might be able to
collectively brainstorm on how best to address change in this particular
instance. Basically, since the RMI is a non-US country, the law is very
vague about whether NEPA is required to be applied. A 1994 publication by
ACTIONS ABROAD, Natural Resources Journal, 34:751 summarizes a few cases
where organizations have tried, and failed, to require NEPA to be
implemented outside of the country. See the below response from Mr. Simpson
which basically says that RMI law was followed to the letter and absolves
FAA from any additional responsibility.
     I think this leaves us with no legal recourse to invoke NEPA, though
any law-minded listers might have some more productive suggestions. I think
that means we're in the court of public opinion, which means targeting
RMI-EPA, MIMRA, or even some US agencies to try and sway them towards
taking more of a stand for the reef might be our best option. As many have
said, Dean's been fighting the good fight for over 3 years now and I think
it's our duty to try and continue the fight and leverage what resources we
can towards convincing the agencies responsible for allowing the continued
dredging to pursue alternative mining options. I think the important thing
will be a targeted, organized effort so if those that have suggested
certain actions (e.g. facebooking RMI-EPA, etc.) can take the lead on
organizing these particular efforts and sustaining involvement that may be
our best chance for change.

From: "Ron.V.Simpson at faa.gov" <Ron.V.Simpson at faa.gov>
To: atolldino at yahoo.com
Sent: Thursday, June 27, 2013 4:45 PM
Subject: Fw: Message from www.faa.gov: Mark McClardy

Dr. Jacobson,

Mr. Mark McClardy forwarded your 6/22/13 email to me and asked me to
respond to you concerning the Runway Safety Area (RSA) project that the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is providing funding assistance in
Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). The FAA's mission is to
provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.  In most
parts of the world we provide our technical expertise on aviation to help
support our mission.  In the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), we are
also able to provide federal funding in addition to our aviation expertise.
As an independent, sovereign nation, the RMI government followed its
environmental laws and completed an Environmental Impact Assessment and an
Environmental Management Plan both of which were reviewed and approved by
the RMI Environmental Protection Agency.  FAA reviewed documents submitted
by the RMI government under its environmental process.  In doing so, we
requested information on how they notified the public and were made aware
of at least two instances where public notification was completed.  I
understand your concerns and respectfully suggest that you work with the
RMI government to address them.


Ron Simpson, Manager,

FAA, Honolulu Airports District Office


  Daniel Barshis, Ph.D.
  Assistant Professor
  Department of Biological Sciences
  Old Dominion University
  Norfolk, VA 23529
  Office: 757-683-3614

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