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Montana Wildlife Fed'n v. Morton

Citation: 6 ELR 20435
No. No. CV-74-80-BLG, 406 F. Supp. 489/(D. Mont., 01/20/1976)

Presently before the court is the question of whether the environmental impact statement for a 9.6 mile segment of the Transpark Road meets the statutory requirements of NEPA. Under the Act the EIS must serve two functions: (1) aid in the substantive decision whether to proceed with the project in light of its environmental consequences, and (2) make information on these environmental impacts available to the public. Trout Unlimited v. Morton, 509 F.2d 1276, 1283, 5 ELR 20151 (9th Cir. 1974). In achieving these purposes, NEPA is essentially a procedural statute. Lathan v. Brinegar, 506 F.2d 677, 693, 4 ELR 20802 (9th Cir. 1974). The scope of judicial review under NEPA is limited to determining whether the agency action, findings and conclusions are "without observance of procedure required by law." 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(D), Lathan v. Brinegar, supra. The sufficiency of an EIS depends on the particular circumstances in each case. Upon a reading of the entire EIS in question, the court concludes that the agency decision to proceed with the project was based upon a reasonably thorough discussion of all the significant aspects of the probable environmental consequences. Disagreement among scientific experts alone cannot invalidate an EIS. Trout Unlimited v. Morton, supra. The agency clearly followed the procedures required by NEPA. Moreover, plaintiffs are mistaken in contending that the EIS must contain a cost-benefit analysis. Trout Unlimited v. Morton, supra. Nor has the National Historic Preservation Act been violated with respect to archaeological sites in the area. Because the agency met all the procedural requirements and the impact statement was sufficiently detailed to aid in the decision to proceed with the road, the court cannot question this substantive decision.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (3 pp. $0.50, ELR Order No. C-1036).

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Donald R. Marble
Bunn & Marble
Westland Bldg.
Chester MT 59522
(406) 334-2811

Counsel for Defendants
Keith L. Burrowes, Asst. U.S. Attorney
U.S. Courthouse
310 N. 26th Street
Billings MT 59101
(406) 245-6711

Battin, J.