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Centralia, Wash., City of v. Federal Energy Regulatory Comm'n

Citation: 30 ELR 20675
No. No. 99-1273, 213 F.3d 742/(D.C. Cir., 06/09/2000)

The court grants a city's petition for review and reverses the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC's) order requiring the city to conduct a study of the effects of the Yelm Hydroelectric Project on the anadromous fish in the Nisqually River in Washington. The study would be used to determine whether a trailrace barrier costing $1 million should be constructed. The court first holds that FERC's order is devoid of reasoned decisionmaking and lacks substantial evidence to justify requiring the city to conduct a study. There are no material environmental considerations that weigh in favor of a study. In fact, FERC's own studies could uncover no nonpower concerns, and FERC admitted that there are no facts sufficient to require the city to construct a trailrace barrier. Additionally, there is substantial evidence to support the opposite position. The record contains abundant submissions from a Native American tribe showing that no harm results from the project, and FERC fails to point to record evidence to refute the tribe's submissions. Moreover, the costs of complying with the order far outweigh any benefits to fish or the general environment. It is difficult to justify a $300,000 expenditure for an inconclusive study to determine whether to spend an additional $1 million to construct a barrier to address a problem that has not been identified.

Counsel for Petitioner
James B. Vasile
Steptoe & Johnson
1330 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 429-3000

Counsel for Respondent
Laura J. Vallance
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
825 N. Capitol St. NE, Washington DC 20426
(202) 208-0200

Before Henderson and Rogers, JJ.