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Environmental Defense Fund v. Higginson

Citation: 10 ELR 20206
No. No. 79-1028, 14 ERC 1008/(D.D.C., 01/03/1980) Summary judgment awarded to defendants

The court grants summary judgment to the federal defendants in a case challenging their failure to prepare a comprehensive environmental impact statement (CEIS) concerning a series of water resources projects in the Colorado River Basin. Preliminary procedural decisions in the same case may be found at 9 ELR 20073 and 20329. Although midway through the litigation Congress enacted legislation preventing the court from enjoining construction of the projects for failure to prepare a CEIS, plaintiffs continued to demand that a CEIS be prepared immediately. The court refuses to issue such an order. The decisions whether and when to prepare a CEIS are not to be overturned unless shown to be arbitrary. Here the Department of the Interior has determined that a CEIS prepared at a later date will be just as useful as a CEIS prepared now. In part this is because project-specific impact statements have already been prepared for the water resources projects in question, and they address many of the cumulative environmental impacts of the entire series of projects. In addition, the enactment by Congress of a partial exemption for the projects from NEPA's CEIS requirements makes irrelevant the usual goal of evaluating the environmental consequences of a project in advance of determining whether it should proceed. The court rejects the claim that the case presents a political question and is thus non-justiciable.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
William A. Butler
Environmental Defense Fund, Inc.
1825 18th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 833-1484

Counsel for Defendants
William Cohen, David C. Cannon Jr.
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2775