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Breckinridge v. Schlesinger

Citation: 6 ELR 20111
No. No. 75-100, (E.D. Ky., 10/31/1975)

The U.S. Army failed to comply with NEPA in deciding to close down the Lexington-Bluegrass Army Depot and transferring its functions to similar installations in California and Pennsylvania. While conceding that the proposed closing is a major federal action, the Army nevertheless determined that it would not significantly affect the quality of the human environment within the meaning of the Act. The administrative record reveals that the studies encompassing environmental aspects of the proposed action were only begun after the initial decision to close the depot was made. It thus appears that the studies were not objective, but were intended instead to be post hoc rationalizations of the decision. In apparent violation of its own NEPA compliance regulations and the "full disclosure" spirit of the Act itself, the Army also shrouded the decision-making process and subsequent environmental review in secrecy for fear of public reaction to the proposed closing. A violation of NEPA is apparent under either the reasonableness test or the arbitrary and capricious standard of review. By their misfeasance, the defendants have placed the case in such a posture that preparation of a full environmental impact statement is required. The court holds that plaintiffs have standing to maintain this suit in view of their statutory right to have the environmental aspects of a proposed major federal action fully considered by an agency at every stage of the decision-making process. It is, however, unnecessary to rule on plaintiffs' additional contention that the NEPA term "human environment" encompasses secondary socio-economic ramifications of proposed actions such as unemployment and economic dislocation. Closing the depot is enjoined pending completion of an EIS and reconsideration of the closing decision in light of the impact statement's findings.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Bert T. Combs
Tarrant, Combs & Bullitt
26th Floor, Citizens Plaza
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 584-1144

Julius E. Rather
259 W. Short St.
Lexington, KY 40507
(606) 252-0824

Terry McBrayer
1st Security Plaza
Lexington, KY 40507
(606) 255-6824

E. Lassen King, Fayette Cty. Attorney
806 Security Trust Bldg.
277 W. Short St.
Lexington, KY 40507
(606) 252-7552

Herbert D. Sledd
Brown, Sledd & McKann
300-308 W. Short St.
Lexington, KY 40507
(606) 254-2712

Counsel for Defendants
Eldon L. Webb, U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 1490
Lexington, KY 40501
(606) 252-2312