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U.S. court says environmental groups can sue to stop Okinawa expansion

Staff Writer |
The expansion of the U.S. military's base in Okinawa, Japan could potentially be stifled in order to save the Okinawa dugong, an endangered species that resembles a manatee.

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This comes after a U.S. court said that environmental groups can the U.S. government for potential environmental threats in foreign countries.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, as well as Japanese environmental groups and activists, have the legal right to pursue its lawsuit against the Defense Department to require it to consider the threats to the dugong.

The lawsuit had been dismissed in 2015 by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco.

But Monday's had been dismissed by a lower court, but the 9th Circuit overruled that decision and will send the lawsuit back to Chen to move forward.

"The court today affirmed the right to sue to prevent the U.S. government from taking action that might harm an endangered species of special importance to people in another country without giving serious consideration to the possible effects of its actions," said Martin Wagner, managing attorney of Earthjustice's International Program in a press release.

"The law is intended to respect the cultural values of the Japanese people, and requires the Defense Department to make every effort to understand and minimize the effects of this project on the dugong. Today's decision affirms the right to ask the courts to ensure that the U.S. government complies with this law."

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