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Southern Or. Citizens Against Toxic Sprays v. Watt

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20174
Nos. No. 79-1098, 17 ERC 2133/(D. Or., 09/09/1982) Judgment for plaintiff

The court holds that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was not required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to supplement a programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) when it substituted herbicide sprays used in a forest vegetation management program in Oregon but that BLM must include a "worst-case analysis" in a subsequent annual environmental assessment of the program. The court holds that the substitution in 1982 of 2,4-D and other herbicides for Silvex did not constitute a major federal action of substantial programmatic change requiring the preparation of a supplemental EIS because the substituted herbicides are less harmful to human health than Silvex and all are mentioned in the programmatic EIS. The court also holds that the 1982 spraying program for the Medford, Oregon, district is not a major federal action because the program does not involve significant impacts beyond those already analyzed in the programmatic EIS. In addition, the court finds that the 1978 programmatic EIS did not violate NEPA in only discussing the human health effects of Silvex, because the EIS did discuss the probable environmental consequences known at the time.

The court notes that the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations apply to environmental documents filed after the effective date of the regulations. It rules that BLM violated the CEQ regulations by failing to include a worst-case analysis in the 1982 supplemental environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact since scientific uncertainty exists as to the effect of 2,4-D on human health.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Michael Jewett
Jacobson & Jewett
P.O. Box 518, Ashland OR 97520
(503) 482-4753

Counsel for Defendants
Thomas C. Lee, Ass't U.S. Attorney
312 U.S. Cthse., 620 SW Main St., Portland OR 97205
(503) 221-2101