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Chamber of Commerce v. Department of the Interior

Citation: 8 ELR 20054
No. No. 77-1573, 439 F. Supp. 762/10 ERC 1929/(D.D.C., 11/03/1977)

The court rules that plaintiff lacks standing to challenge the Department of the Interior's failure to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) in connection with comments and testimony submitted to a congressional committee considering Alaskan lands legislation. Plaintiff's lack of opportunity to comment on the Department's submissions does not constitute the requisite showing of injury in fact because such comments would have at best only a speculative impact on the shape of the enactments, if any, which finally emerge from the legislative process. Although this threshold determination terminates the lawsuit, the court touches upon other issues raised by the complaint. Plaintiff's request for an injunction against the transmission of departmental comments, were it properly before the court, would be tantamount to a request for a judicially-imposed halt to congressional deliberations and would risk breaching the constitutional separation of powers. Plaintiff's request for a declaratory judgment to the effect that the departmental comments are violative of the National Environmental Policy Act would also be denied. If, in light of such a declaratory judgment, Congress were to delay its consideration of the comments pending completion of an EIS, the declaratory order would assume the constitutionally-suspect dimensions of injunctive relief. On the other hand, if Congress were to proceed despite the lack of an EIS, the court's judgment would be reduced to a gratuitous gesture, and any subsequent EIS would be a waste of administrative time and effort. The court concludes that if there is any relief available to plaintiffs, it will have to come from Congress rather than the judiciary.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Ben W. Cotten
Cotten, Day & Doyle
1212 Ring Bldg., 1200 18th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 659-9509

Counsel for Defendant
Irwin L. Schroeder
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 739-2730