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Natural Resources Defense Council v. Hughes

Citation: 7 ELR 20785
No. No. 75-1749, 437 F. Supp. 981/10 ERC 1713/(D.D.C., 09/27/1977)

Granting plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, the court enjoins implementation of the Federal Coal Leasing Program. The Department of the Interior's final programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) failed to consider the "no action" alternative of continuing the 1970 moratorium on issuance of new prospecting permits and allowing new coal leases to be issued only to maintain existing mines or to supply reserves necessary to meet existing contracts. Since Bureau of Land Management figures indicate that future demand could be met by lands currently subject to federal coal leases, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires preparation of a new final EIS which is to be used as the basis for determining the need for and type of new leasing program.The court rejects the claim that the case is moot due to Department of the Interior plans to comply with the goal of the President's Environmental Message that federal coal lands be managed in an environmentally acceptable manner. Such compliance does not obviate the need for a revised EIS, especially when failure to enjoin the current short-term leasing criteria pending NEPA review will permit extensive new federal leasing and environmental degradation. Injunctive relief is appropriate because the resultant delay in new leasing will not disrupt national energy planning, continuation of the new national coal leasing policy would irreparably injure the environment, and clear violations of NEPA require issuance of injunctions.

For moving papers, see ELR PEND. LIT. 65274, 65328.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Bruce J. Terris, Natalie E. Black
1526 18th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 332-1882

Richard E. Ayres
Natural Resources Defense Council
917 15th St. NW, Washington DC 20005
(202) 737-5000

Counsel for Federal Defendants
Irwin L. Schroeder
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 739-2710

Counsel for Intervenor-Defendant Utah Power and Light Co.
Jerry Levenberg
Leonard, Cohen & Gettings
1700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 550, Washington DC 20006
(202) 872-1095