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Sierra Club v. Sigler

Citation: 12 ELR 20381
No. No. G-81-142, 532 F. Supp. 1222/17 ERC 2064/(S.D. Tex., 02/03/1982)

The court holds that an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a deepwater port to be constructed at Galveston under permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Applying a "rule of reason," the court limits its review of the EIS to determining whther the Corps has taken a "hard look" at the environmental consequences of the proposed action. The court finds the EIS's discussion of the present environment of Galveston Bay adequate under this standard. It holds that the EIS is not fatally flawed by its failure to evaluate the consequences of a complete loss of cargo by a very large crude oil carrier since the possibility of such a loss and its consequences are remote and speculative. In addition, the Corps was not required to evaluate the cumulative impacts of related projects that were only remote contingencies at the time the present proposal was made. The court also finds that the EIS adequately discusses the alternative of contructing the project in an offshore area. As long as the discussion of alternatives is sufficient to permit a reasoned choice among different courses of action, the specificity of the EIS's treatment of alternatives and the agency's choice among them are matters of discretion. The court further upholds the EIS's discussion of the economic benefits of the project. Although the EIS improperly included benefits of related projects that have failed to materialize, the economic analysis was not so grossly flawed as to distort the environmental consequences of the project. Next, the court rules that the Corps' unwillingness to receive post-EIS comments from a field supervisor of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was not a violation of the interagency consultation requirement of § 102(2)(C) of NEPA since the comments offered did not represent the official position of the FWS and the Department of the Interior. Finally, the court holds that the EIS was not required to incorporate a report from the Secretary of the Interior under § 2(b) of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, ruling that § 2(b) applies only to federally constructed projects and not to private projects constructed under federal permits.

[The pleadings in this case are summarized at ELR PEND. LIT. 65694 & 65735 — Ed.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Frederick S. Middleton III
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
1424 K St. NW, Suite 600, Washington DC 20005
(202) 347-1770

James T.B. Tripp
49 E. 96th St., New York NY 10028
(212) 831-0229

Counsel for Defendants
Margaret Strand, Pauline H. Milius
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2704

Benjamin R. Powel
McLeod, Alexander, Power & Apffel
P.O. Box 629, Galveston TX 77553
(713) 763-2481