Court rejects Henoko residents’ call for a new impact assessment
May 28, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo
On May 27, the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court passed a judgment on the initial appeal of about 300 citizens living near Camp Schwab in the Henoko district of Nago. The U.S. and Japanese governments plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the area, which would involve major dredging and construction on Oura bay. However, residents opposing the plan say it will damage their livelihood. The plaintiffs alleged the approach to the environmental impact assessment for the plan was unsatisfactory. They filed an appeal seeking a reassessment and damages. Justice Hidekazu Imaizumi dismissed the appeal, upholding the decision of the Naha District Court at the first trial. He stated that he “cannot recognize the right of the residents to declare their opinion” on the procedure of the environmental impact assessment (EIA). He did not express a judgment on the illegality of the assessment, which the residents were asserting. The residents are considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.
During the lawsuit, Henoko residents debated with the Japanese government over the rights of local citizens to demand a reassessment.
The residents claimed that the central government withheld key information during the assessment process, only releasing it when it was too late for the community to express their views. They claimed the government had infringed on the right of residents to be consulted on their views on the environmental assessment.
The judge knocked back the residents’ demand for an opportunity to express their views on the procedure of the EIA. Imaizumi claimed that the government was more equipped to conduct accurate research on the natural environment than a survey done by private research companies.
Furthermore, the plaintiffs claimed the anticipated noise from U.S. military planes would compromise the quality of life of residents living near the proposed site for the air base. They argued that future civil legal action against US military aircraft noise was unlikely to be successful, considering the precedent of unsuccessful cases in Okinawa.
However, Imaizumi dismissed the claim, without offering a concrete resolution. He stated that he was ” unable to find evidence that there is no other way to avoid such damage.”
Leader of the plaintiffs Hiroshi Ashitomi said this was an “unjust judgment.”
(English translation by T&CT and Lima Tokumori)
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