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Suffolk, County of v. Secretary of the Interior

Citation: 7 ELR 20230
No. Nos. 75-C-208, -1229, 76 F.R.D. 469/(E.D.N.Y., 02/17/1977)

After a trial on the merits, the court enjoins further activities pursuant to leases sold by the Department of the Interior in August 1976 for exploration and production of oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in the Baltimore Canyon area off New Jersey and declares the leases null and void. The court concludes that the final environmental impact statement (EIS) inadequately complied with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in several respects. The first major defect was the failure to account for state and local authority to restrict the siting of pipeline and onshore facilities. The refusal to account for local opposition to OCS-related facilities or to evaluate the local powers meant that the EIS failed to perceive fully the environmental problems. This difficulty was exacerbated by a failure to specify the location of impacts of the shore development. Thus, because the EIS contained only generalities rather than specific studies of actual projects, including tanker- or pipeline-delivery alternatives and the economic consequences of state and local exercise of authority to restrict onshore facilities, insufficient information was provided to make a fully-informed decision on the whole lease sale project.

The second major defect in the EIS was a deficient cost-benefit analysis. Trial testimony established that the investment costs of exploration and pipeline construction were substantially underestimated and that the peak production levels were greatly overestimated. Without an accurate cost-benefit analysis of the lease sale project, there could no proper balancing of economic benefits against environmental costs. For NEPA purposes, the inadequacies were so great as to constitute a failure to make a meaningful inquiry; thus, the decision to sell the leases without following the full procedures was arbitrary, capricious, and in violation of law.

Thirdly, the EIS failed to consider adequately alternatives to the leasing project, including the separation of exploration and production leases, and the leasing of alternative tracts, notwithstanding that new legislation might be required. Although there was evidence to indicate that the OCS leasing decision was made well before the EIS was prepared and therefore the EIS was irrelevant to the decision, the court deems it unnecessary to decide the issue of good faith on the part of the Secretary of the Interior. The court discusses several alternative remedies, including ignoring the NEPA violation and mandating creation of a new agency to coordinate further OCS drilling activities to minimize harmful environmental effects, and then enjoins further proceedings as a result of the lease sale. The injunction is stayed, however, pending completion of the appeal process.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Irving Like
Reilly, Like and Schneider
200 W. Main St., Babylon NY 11702
(516) 669-3000

Sarah Chasis
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.
15 W. 44th St., New York NY 10036
(212) 869-0150

John M. Kaufman, Robert Stover
Kommel, Rogers, Kaufman, Lorver & Shenkman
380 Madison Ave., New York NY 10036
(212) 986-9779

John Picciano
Nassau County Environmental Management Council
1505 Pellum Pl., Mineola NY 11501
(516) 535-2990

Hyman Herman
Abrams & Herman
P.O. Box 313, 163 Half Hollow Rd., Deer Park NY 11729
(516) 667-6330

Francis G. Calderia, Town Attorney
Town Hall, Main St., Islip NY 11751
(516) 581-2000

W. Kenneth Chave, Jr., Town Attorney
Front St., Hempstead NY 11550
(516) 489-5000

Francis J. Doran, Town Attorney
Town Hall, 220 Plandome Rd., Manhasset NY 11030
(516) 627-0590

Joseph Colby, Town Attorney
Town Hall, Audrey Ave., Oyster Bay NY 11771
(516) 922-5800

Anthony R. Corso
Board of Trustees, Town Hall
227 Main St., Huntington NY 11743
(516) 421-1000

William F. Dudine
Concerned Citizens of Montauk, Inc.
405 Lexington Ave., New York NY 10017
(212) 697-7660

Counsel for Defendants
David G. Trager, U.S. Attorney; Cyril Hyman, J. Christopher Jensen, Ass't U.S. Attorneys
225 Camden Plaza East, Brooklyn NY 11201
(212) 330-7596

Peter R. Taft, Ass't Attorney General; John J. Zimmerman
Division of Land and Natural Resources
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 739-2701

Lawrence Hoese, Jack Hughes
Office of the Solicitor
Department of the Interior, Washington DC 20240
(202) 343-1100

Counsel for Intervenor-Defendant New York Gas Group
Warren H. Gunther, F. Peter O'Hara
Cullen & Dykman
177 Montague St., Brooklyn NY 11201
(212) 855-9000

Counsel for Intervenors National Ocean Industries Association
George A. Burrell
220 Fifth Ave., New York NY 10001
(212) 683-5070

E. Edward Bruce, Robert J. Pope
Covington & Burling
888 16th St., NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 293-3300

William M. Meyers, Gene W. Lafitte, J. Berry St. John, Jr.
Liskow & Lewis
225 Barone St., New Orleans LA 70112
(504) 581-7979