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National Wildlife Fed'n v. Appalachian Regional Comm'n

Citation: 11 ELR 20386
No. No. 79-2349, 677 F.2d 883/15 ERC 1945/(D.C. Cir., 03/19/1981)

The court rules that a programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) is not required for a series of federal highway projects in Appalachia. The highways were conceived in 1965, and rudimentary route outlines were prepared in 1966, prior to passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). By mid-1979, 56 percent of the roads had been completed or were under construction. Site-specific EISs have been or are being prepared for 80 percent of the highways. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirms the lower court's grant of summary judgment but finds it unnecessary to decide the issues of whether the mandates of the Appalachian Regional Development Act create a statutory conflict exempting appellees from NEPA's requirements or whether legislative proposals submitted to Congress by appellees are covered by NEPA's EIS requirement. Rather the court decides only that a programmatic EIS is unnecessary because, under the "rule of reason," it would not shed additional decisionmaking light on the interstitial and disparate segments of the project still to be built. The court notes the "forward-looking" value of EISs and finds that a programmatic EIS at this late stage of construction would not fulfill the forward-looking planning function. The court also notes the absence of arbitrary action or action in bad faith by appellees in deciding to prepare only site-specific EISs. Finally, the court declines to rule on the claim that appellees failed to comply with § 102(2)(E) of NEPA because this claim can be dealt with in a review of the adequacy of the site-specific EISs.

Counsel for Appellant
David G. Burwell
National Wildlife Federation
1412 16th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 797-6845

Charles H. Montange, Russell H. Carpenter Jr.
Covington & Burling
888 16th St. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 452-6000

Counsel for Appellees
James T. Draude, Jacques B. Gelin; James W. Moorman, Ass't Attorney General
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-3796

Robert L. McCloskey
Appalachian Regional Commission
1666 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20235
(202) 673-7873

Before: BAZELON, Senior Circuit Judge, ROBB and WILKEY, Circuit Judges.