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Foundation on Economic Trends v. Watkins

Citation: 23 ELR 20186
No. No. 89-1483, 794 F. Supp. 395/(D.D.C., 04/29/1992) Summary judgment granted

The court holds that two nonprofit organizations and an individual author lack standing to challenge the alleged failure of the secretaries of Energy, Agriculture, and the Interior to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in authorizing, implementing, funding, or participating in 42 actions and programs that allegedly contribute to the greenhouse effect. The plaintiffs claimed that they had standing to sue because the defendants' alleged failure to comply with NEPA harmed the plaintiffs' programmatic activities in disseminating public information about the greenhouse effect. The court notes that standing based on informational injury alone would potentially eliminate any standing requirement in NEPA cases, except when an organization is foolish enough to allege that it wants information for reasons having nothing to do with the environment. Relying on precedent in the circuit court and the U.S. Supreme Court, the court holds that the plaintiffs' claim of informational standing is virtually indistinguishable from an ideological interest in the problem of global warming that, without more, is insufficient to confer standing. The court next denies the plaintiffs' motion to amend their complaint to add an additional basis for standing, to conform their complaint to statements made in their brief in opposition to the defendants' motion for summary judgment, and to clarify their challenge to the defendants' compliance with NEPA. In his additional standing claim, the plaintiff author asserted that he expects to vacation in June 1992 and future years at Emerald Beach, North Carolina, which is directly threatened by global warming effects. The court holds that this claim falls short of showing that the author has a direct stake in the outcome of the cited federal actions, because his allegations of environmental harm to the beaches he expects to visit lack a sufficient geographical nexus to the site of the challenged project. Moreover, his environmental injury claim rests merely on the assertion that he "expects" to rent a cottage in Emerald Beach in June 1992, and that he "expects" to do so in future years. Further, the plaintiff author fails to show that the alleged injury is fairly traceable to the proposed action. The court holds that because the plaintiff author's claim of direct environmental injury would not pass muster to establish standing, granting the plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint would be futile.

[A prior decision in this litigation is published at 20 ELR 20724.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Edward Lee Rogers
Law Offices of Edward Lee Rogers
1511 K St. NW, Ste. 811, Washington DC 20005
(202) 628-3330

Counsel for Defendants
Gary B. Randall, Daria J. Zane
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

REVERCOMB, District Judge