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Fritiofson v. Alexander

Citation: 14 ELR 20266
No. No. G-78-188, 592 F. Supp. 120/20 ERC 2034/(S.D. Tex., 03/02/1984)

The court holds that the Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by granting permission for a wetlands development project on a relatively pristine part of west Galveston Island, Texas without preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) analyzing the cumulative impact that several such projects could have. The court rules that in order to successfully challenge the Corps' decision not to prepare an EIS, plaintiffs must raise a significant environmental issue, and then prove the decision was unreasonable. Plaintiffs' evidence on the project's damage to the local ecosystem satisfies the former requirement. The court then considers whether the Corps reasonably concluded that the project's effects would not be significant under NEPA § 102(2)(C). The Corps is bound by the Council on Environmental Quality's NEPA regulations, which require an agency to consider the possible cumulative impact of subsequent public or private actions in weighing a project's significance. Although alerted to the likelihood of further development of west Galveston Island, the Corps did not consider such development's possible cumulative effects. The court holds that the project is clearly related to other past, present, or reasonably foreseeable projects, and therefore the Corps should have considered cumulative effects. The court holds that the goals of NEPA would best be served by ordering the Corps to prepare an EIS on the cumulative impact of the project and related developments.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Robert M. Moore
Robert M. Moore & Associates
7511 Broadway, Galveston TX 77551
(409) 740-0224

Counsel for Defendants
Charles T. Newton Jr.
Vinson & Elkins
First City Twr., Houston TX 77002
(713) 651-2222