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National Audubon Soc'y v. Department of the Navy

Citation: 35 ELR 20183
No. No. 05-1405, (4th Cir., 09/07/2005)

The court upholds a district court decision that the U.S. Navy's environmental impact statement (EIS) for the construction of an aircraft landing field in North Carolina was deficient under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), but it vacates the court's injunction of the project as overly broad. The landing field would lie within five miles of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, the winter home for nearly 100,000 waterfowl. In preparing the EIS, the Navy failed to evaluate how its actions would affect the unique biological features of this congressionally protected area. The hallmarks of a "hard look" are thorough investigation into environmental impacts and forthright acknowledgment of potential environmental harms. Here, the Navy's effort fell short in both regards. Thus, the district court properly ordered the Navy to prepare a supplemental EIS. However, the district court erred in enjoining the entire project. It treated the injunction as an all-or-nothing proposition, and such a broad-brush view of NEPA is an error of law. On remand, therefore, the district court must narrow the injunction in accordance with the specific directions set forth in the opinion.