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Sierra Club v. Peterson

Citation: 12 ELR 20454
No. No. 81-1230, 17 ERC 1449/(D.D.C., 03/31/1982)

The court upholds defendants' determination not to prepare an environmental impact statement for oil and gas leases issued in the "Palisades" RARE II further planning area in the Targhee and Bridge-Teton National Forests of Idaho and Wyoming. Initially, the court rules that the action is not barred by the statute of limitations for suits contesting oil and gas leasing decisions by the Secretary of the Interior because the doctrine of relation back is applicable. Plaintiff's supplemental pleading challenging Interior's final approval arose out of the subject matter of the original complaint challenging the Forest Service's actions. Applying a four-part version of the arbitrary and capricious standard of review, the court rules that defendants properly made a finding of no significant impact. Lease stipulations that require a site-specific environmental analysis prior to any surface disturbance ensure that there will be no significant environmental effects before further analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act The court rejects plaintiff's argument that these lease stipulations may not be enforceable. The Secretary has authority to condition leases and under contract law leases legally obligate themselves to such conditions.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Howard I. Fox
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
1424 K St. NW, Suite 600, Washington DC 20005
(202) 347-1770

Counsel for Defendants
Robert B. Schaefer
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2668