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Sierra Club v. Adams

Citation: 8 ELR 20281
No. No. 76-2158, 578 F.2d 389/11 ERC 1454/(D.C. Cir., 03/14/1978) Injunction vacated

The court vacates a preliminary injunction against continued United States participation in construction of the Darien Gap Highway in Panama and Colombia after finding that the final environmental impact statement (EIS) adequately complies with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The district court's injunction was based on its ruling that the final EIS inadequately examined the environmental impact of the highway in three respects: the control of aftosa (hoof-and-mouth disease), alternative routes, and the adverse effects on local Indian tribes. The D.C. Circuit first decides that appellees have standing to challenge the final EIS's discussion of alternative routes because it represents merely an extension of the aftosa control issue, with respect to which their standing is undisputed. In addition, appellees have standing to challenge the adequacy of the discussion of the prospective effects on the Indians; once they have satisfied the threshold standing test, plaintiffs may advance additional arguments in the public interest to assure that NEPA's requirements are fully met. In determining whether the final EIS was in procedural compliance with NEPA, the court, applying a "rule of reason," notes that neither the Council on Environmental Quality nor the Environmental Protection Agency objected to the draft EIS and, furthermore, that any adverse comments were incorporated in the final EIS and adequately answered. As to the merits of the three issues, the discussions of aftosa control and alternative routes are ruled adequate because they supply in reasonable detail the information on environmental factors needed by a decision maker. The discussion of effects on the local Indian tribes is also held adequate because the final EIS includes a sufficient variety of estimates of the cultural impacts on the Indians to allow the decision maker to balance the appropriate environmental factors.

For the district court's opinions in this case, see Sierra Club v. Coleman, 6 ELR 20051 (D.D.C. Oct. 17, 1975), 6 ELR 20798 (D.D.C. Sept. 23, 1976). For a summary of the moving papers at the district court level, see ELR PEND. LIT. 65293. For a summary of the brief filed by the federal appellants in the D.C. Circuit, see ELR PEND. LIT. 65475.

Counsel for Appellants
Carl Strass, Raymond N. Zagone, Irwin L. Schroeder, Edmund B. Clark
Land & Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 739-2720

Counsel for Appellees
Leonard C. Meeker
Center for Law and Social Policy
1751 N St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 872-0670

Before: McGOWAN, TAMM and ROBINSON, Circuit Judges.