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Andrus v. Sierra Club

Citation: 9 ELR 20390
No. No. 78-625, 442 U.S. 347/13 ERC 1161/(U.S., 06/11/1979) Rev'd

The Supreme Court rules that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) does not require federal agencies to prepare environmental impact statements (EISs) to accompany appropriations requests. Unanimously reversing a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 8 ELR 20490, the Court holds that neither "routine" budget requests nor those which result from a "painstaking review of an ongoing program" are to be considered "proposals for legislation" within the meaning of § 102(2)(C) of NEPA for which an EIS must be prepared. In reaching this conclusion, the Court relies on the Council on Environmental Quality's new NEPA implementation regulations, which interpret the phrase "proposals for legislation" to exclude appropriations requests, and the traditional congressional distinction between "legislation" and "appropriation." The Court likewise rejects the court of appeals' conclusion that appropriations requests which envision significant revisions in ongoing programs constitute proposals for "major Federal action" under NEPA. Such requests do not themselves propose actions but instead seek funding for actions already proposed. Moreover, a contrary ruling would lead to unnecessary redundancy since an EIS must in any event be prepared for the underlying programmatic decision. Because § 102(2)(C) of NEPA has no application to appropriations requests, the court of appeals' further ruling requiring the Office of Management and Budget to adopt regulations for the implementation of its NEPA obligations was also incorrect.

Counsel for Petitioners
John M. Harmon, Ass't Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel; Stephen R. Barnett, Deputy Solicitor General; Kent L. Jones, Office of Solicitor General; Sanford Sagalkin, Peter R. Steenland, Jr., Raymond N. Zagone, Dirk D. Snel, Land and Natural Resources Civision
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2041

William M. Nichols, General Counsel; Richard M. Irby
Office of Management and Budget, Washington DC 20503
(202) 395-3000

Counsel for Respondents
James H. Cohen
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
1424 K St. NW, Washington DC 20005
(202) 347-1770

Bruce J. Terris, Philip G. Sunderland
1826 18th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 332-1882