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Sierra Club v. Morton

Citation: 5 ELR 20463
No. No. 74-1389, 514 F.2d 856/7 ERC 1977/(D.C. Cir., 06/16/1975) Rev'd

Attempts by the Departments of Interior and Agriculture and the Army Corps of Engineers to control the development of coal resources in the Northern Great Plains show that a regional program of major federal action is contemplated, for which preparation of a programmatic NEPA impact statement may be required. The federal government's actions in attempting to formulate a regional program to control development and in granting or considering applications for mine leases, mining plans, coalrelated rights-of-way over public lands, navigable waters and national forests, and for water rights in federally-controlled waters, indicate the undertaking of a comprehensive program within the meaning of NEPA, even though the government denies that any such program exists. The case is remanded for a determination, after defendants have released a proposal concerning their role with respect to coal development in the area, as to whether an EIS must in fact be prepared. If the federal role chosen is that of controlling development, as now seems probable, then preparation of a programmatic EIS will be necessary; if, however, another role or no role at all is chosen, then a negative assessment may suffice. The majority opinion, written by Judge Wright, states that there is a sound legal basis to plaintiffs' contention that NEPA imposes a substantive duty on federal agencies to plan comprehensively even when they would not otherwise formulate such plans, but declines to rule on the issue. A temporary injunction against further federal action in the Eastern Powder River Basin, a subregion of the Northern Great Plains, is continued. For the district court decision, here reversed, see 4 ELR 20247; for the court of appeals' issuance of the temporary injunction, see 5 ELR 20155.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Bruce J. Terris
Suellen T. Keiner
1908 Sunderland Place, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036

Counsel for Federal Defendants
Wallace H. Johnson Asst. Attorney General
Jacques B. Gelin
Raymond N. Zagone
Herbert Pittle
Edmund B. Clark
Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20530

Counsel for Intervening Defendants Montana Power Co., Puget Sound Power & Light Co., Portland General Electric Co., and Washington Water Power Co.
Francis M. Shea
Richard T. Conway
David Booth Beers
Shea & Gardner
Walker Building
Washington, D.C. 20005

Counsel for Intervening Defendants Arkansas Power & Light Co., Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., and Wisconsin Power & Light Co.
Richard M. Merriman
Peyton G. Bowman III
James K. Mitchell
Reid & Priest
1701 K Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006

Counsel for Intervening Defendant Atlantic Richfield Oil Co.
Henry B. Weaver
James E. Nolan
Steptoe & Johnson
1250 Conn. Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036

Counsel for Intervening Defendant Peabody Coal Co.
James W. McDade
McDade & Lee
1130 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036

Counsel for Intervening Defendant Northern Natural Gas Co.
Justin R. Wolf
Charles A. Case, Jr.
David B. Ward
Wolf & Case
Commonwealth Building
1625 K Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006

Counsel for Intervening Defendant Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co.
Robert L. Ackerly
Joseph S. Wager
Sellers, Conner & Cuneo
1625 K Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006

Counsel for Intervening Defendants American Electric Power System and Kerr-McGee Corp.
Peter J. Nickles
Covington & Burling
888 16th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006

Counsel for Intervening Defendant Westmoreland Resources
Max Wilfand
Dechert, Price & Rhoads
888 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006

Counsel for Intervening Defendant Cities Service Gas Co.
Dale A. Wright
Harold L. Talisman
Littman, Richter, Wright & Talisman
Suite 1010, 1001 Conn. Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036

Counsel for Intervening Defendant Crow Tribe of Indians
L. Graeme Bell III
John D. Ross
Native American Rights Fund
1712 N Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036