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Natural Resources Defense Council v. Peña

Citation: 28 ELR 20001
No. 97-00936, 972 F. Supp. 9/(D.D.C., 08/08/1997)

The court denies environmental groups' motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin new U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapon Stockpile Stewardship and Management (SSM) facilities, as well as activities or major upgrades to mission capability based on alleged violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations. The court first holds that NEPA and CEQ regulations cannot reasonably be construed to require that the DOE prepare a single, comprehensive preliminary environmental impact statement (PEIS), or that the scope adopted by the DOE in the SSM PEIS was not arbitrary or capricious. However, the court assumes that nonclassified portions of the DOE's environmental site reports shall be made available to the environmental groups in order to maintain a watchful eye on the implementation of the SSM program. The court next holds that the DOE is not required to do a full analysis of additional programmatic alternatives to the SSM program. The DOE is entitled to some deference with respect to its internal decisions on which alternatives to the SSM program were reasonable and required full analysis in the PEIS. In addition, the court finds that the direction of the SSM program is consistent with presidential and congressional mandates. The court next holds that failure to grant an injunction will not result in irreparable harm to the environment, however, the court requests that the DOE perform a fuller disclosure of environmental, health, and safety risks associated with plutonium pit fabrication at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Ignition Facility within a reasonable time. The court finally holds that national security interests outweigh potential environmental gains from a preliminary injunction. The national security interest must be paramount, and any future reduction in the credibility of the nuclear deterrent would be unacceptable.

[Counsel not available at this printing.]