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National Wildlife Fed'n v. Watt

Citation: 14 ELR 20043
No. No. 83-2648, 571 F. Supp. 1145/19 ERC 1959/(D.D.C., 09/28/1983) Preliminary injunction issued

The court enjoins the Secretary of the Interior from issuing coal leases that the House Committee on the Interior had requested he withhold under § 204(e) of the Federal Land Management and Policy Act and parallel Interior Department regulations. The court first holds that Rep. Udall, chairman of the House committee, and plaintiff environmental groups have standing. The court then rules that plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits. The Secretary must follow his own regulations until they are rescinded after notice and opportunity for comment. The provisions in § 204(e) allowing the House committee to stop leasing probably are a valid exercise of Congress' power under art. IV of the Constitution to regulate public lands. Alternately, the Secretary's regulations giving the House committee power to stop leasing probably are valid even if § 204(e) is not. The harm threatened is irreparable, and the balance of equity favors the plaintiffs.

[The court expanded on its rationale in an October 6, 1983 opinion, 14 ELR 20044 — ED.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Norman L. Dean Jr.
National Wildlife Federation
1412 16th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 797-6845

G. Robert Witmer Jr.
Nixon, Hargrave, Devans & Doyle
Lincoln First Tower, Rochester NY 14603
(716) 546-8000

Jane E. Kirtley
Nixon, Hargrave, Devans & Doyle
1090 Vermont Ave. NW, Suite 1200, Washington DC 20005
(202) 842-3600

Counsel for Plaintiff-Intervenor
Stanley M. Brand, General Counsel to the Clerk; Steven R. Ross, Michael L. Murray
U.S. House of Representatives, H-105 Capitol Bldg., Washington DC 20515
(202) 225-7000

Counsel for Defendant
F. Henry Habicht II, Acting Ass't Attorney General; Robert D. Daniel, Michael Reed, Peter R. Steenland Jr.
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-4195