COER sues Navy over FIOA violations

A Whidbey Island group known for protesting Navy training flights at a small airfield near Coupeville filed a lawsuit alleging a laundry list of violations of the Freedom of Information Act.

Citizens of the Ebey’s Reserve for a Healthy, Safe and Peaceful Environment, commonly known as COER, filed the complaint against the Navy Monday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

COER is asking the judge to find that the Navy violated the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, and order the Navy to comply with the law by releasing the requested documents.

COER has been active in protesting the increase of Navy EA-18G Growler training flights at the Outlying Field Coupeville of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island because of the noise.

The Freedom of Information Act provides that any person has the right to request and access federal agency records, except those protected by any of nine exemptions. Under the law, federal agencies are required to send an initial response acknowledging receipt of a FOIA request within 20 business days, unless there are “unusual circumstances.”

According to the lawsuit, COER submitted a request Feb. 15 for records regarding the Navy’s testing chemicals that come from a firefighting foam used by the Navy; wells and groundwater around the OLF Coupeville and the Ault Field base have been tested for the chemicals, which are linked to health concerns.

COER received the required initial acknowledgement, but the Navy did not assign the required tracking number nor make determinations about the records.

On May 1, COER submitted a complex request regarding equipment at OLF Coupeville and associated documentation. The Navy failed to respond altogether, the lawsuit states.

On May 13, COER requested information about Growlers being equipped with an enhanced engine. The Navy sent an initial response, but nothing further.

In addition, COER claims the Navy hasn’t adequately responded to a request in May 15, 2018, regarding noise tests on new Growler engines. COER won an administrative appeal of the dearth of documents provided by the Navy, but now faces “unlawful delays,” the lawsuit states.

A spokesman for NAS Whidbey said it would be inappropriate at this time to comment on litigation.

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