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NAACP v. Wilmington Medical Ctr., Inc.

Citation: 8 ELR 20012
No. No. 76-298, 436 F. Supp. 1194/10 ERC 1780/(D. Del., 08/16/1977)

The court rules that approval of a local health care plan by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare pursuant to § 1122 of the Social Security Act does not constitute a "major federal action" for purposes of § 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and hence does not require preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS). Under § 1122, the Secretary must determine whether proper procedures have been followed by local health care planning organizations and local health care providers who seek such certification when planning and constructing health care facilities. The responsibility conferred by § 1122 is not discretionary; the Secretary has no authority to withhold his certification because of doubts about the costs or merits of the proposed project, the environmental impacts, or any considerations other than procedural compliance. Furthermore, if the planners of the facility elect not to seek § 1122 certification, there is no restriction against construction of the project without such approval. Therefore, the court reasons, the nature of the federal role in the statutory scheme is purely auxiliary to the private construction of local facilities and not "major" within the meaning of § 102(2)(C) of NEPA. Although defendants concede that the environmental impacts of projects certified under § 1122 are significant, the court applies the "two-pronged" approach to § 102(2)(C) recommended by the Council on Environmental Quality under which federal actions which are not "major" do not trigger the action-forcing provisions of NEPA even though they entail significant environmental impacts. Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Joseph S. Flowers, Douglas A. Shactman
Community Legal Aid Society, Inc.
913 Washington St., Wilmington DE 19801
(302) 575-0660

Charles H. Toliver IV, Alan Bernard Scher
City Solicitor's Office
City-County Bldg., 800 French St., Wilmington DE 19801
(302) 571-4200

Marilyn G. Rose, Christine B. Hickman
Center for Law and Social Policy
1751 N St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 872-0670

Counsel for Defendants
Rodney M. Layton, Wendell Fenton, William J. Wade
Richards, Layton & Finger
4072 duPont Bldg., Wilmington DE 19899
(302) 658-6541

James W. Garvin, Jr., U.S. Attorney
Federal Bldg., 844 King St., Wilmington DE 19801
(302) 571-6170

Barbara Allen Babcock, Ass't Attorney General; Dennis G. Linder, Rebecca L. Ross
Justice Department, Washington DC 20530
(202) 739-2730

Stephanie W. Naidorf, William M. Reinhart
Region 3, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
P.O. Box 13716, Philadelphia PA 19101
(215) 596-1246

Malcolm S. Cobin
Department of Justice
12th & Market Sts., Wilmington DE 19899
(302) 571-2523