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Alaska v. Kleppe

Citation: 6 ELR 20669
No. No. 76-0368, 9 ERC 1497/(D.D.C., 08/13/1976) Judgment for defendants

In a suit brought to delay outer continental shelf (OCS) Lease Sale No. 39 covering more than one million acres under the Gulf of Alaska, the court denies plaintiffs' request for a judgment declaring the impact statement prepared by the Department of the Interior to be inadequate. After reviewing the draft EIS, EPA had recommended either delaying the sale or limiting the acreage involved. After a one-month interagency study precipitated by EPA's referral of the project to the Council on Environmental Quality pursuant to §309 of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. §1857h-7, ELR 41218, CEQ made a similar recommendation. The Secretary then reduced the acreage in the sale by about 40 percent to 1.1 million acres. Plaintiffs have not proved that the Secretary's balancing of the need for increased oil and gas against possible adverse environmental consequences was arbitrary and capricious. It is for the Secretary—not the courts—to balance the various competing public interests. The studies on which the EIS was based were sufficient. Failure to include a termination clause in the leases, which would become operative upon findings of environmental damage, is not within the Secretary's discretion because the Outer Continental Shelf Act, 43 U.S.C. §1337(b), ELR 41437, requires leases to be issued for a term of five years. The court also rejects arguments that a separate EIS on Operating Orders must be prepared because of their regional scope in view of Kleppe v. Sierra Club, U.S. , 6 ELR 20532 (June 28, 1976). The EIS prepared for Lease Sale No. 39 is an objective, good-faith document that discloses the known and unknown environmental impacts and the reasonable alternatives.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (18 pp. $2.25, ELR Order No. C-1074).

Counsel for Plaintiff State of Alaska
Bruce J. Terris
1908 Sunderland Pl., NW
Washington DC 20036
(202) 785-1992

Counsel for Federal Defendants
Gary Bohlke
Department of the Interior
Washington DC 20240
(202) 343-6848

Counsel for Defendant-Intervenor
E. Edward Bruce
Covington & Burling
888 16th St., NW
Washington DC 20006
(202) 452-6000

Waddy, J.