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Alaska Survival v. Weeks

Citation: 12 ELR 20949
No. No. A82-253, 18 ERC 1814/(D. Alaska, 08/06/1982)

The court rules that the Alaska Railroad's herbicide spraying program for vegetation maintenance on railroad rights-of-way is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The railroad had implemented a vegetation maintenance program in keeping with the Federal Railroad Safety Act regulations but did not prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) because the regulations excluded railroad track right-of-way maintenance from NEPA procedures. The court notes that all federal agencies must comply with NEPA unless there is a statutory conflict. However, in this case there is no statute that conflicts with NEPA. It notes that compliance with an agency's own regulations is evidence of reasonableness, but nevertheless rules that the railroad's decision not to comply with NEPA was unreasonable. It failed to take a "hard look" at the environmental consequences of its vegetation maintenance program and its analysis of the environmental impacts failed to address alternatives to spraying and was incomplete, inaccurate, and out of date. In addition, a number of district courts have held that herbicide spraying programs are subject to NEPA. The court remands the case to the railroad to determine whether an EIS is required. The court also continues the preliminary injunction entered on July 22 against the railroad's use of Tordon 101 in its spraying program until it complies with NEPA.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Durwood J. Zaelke Jr.
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
419 6th St., Suite 321, Juneau AK 99801
(907) 586-2751

Counsel for Defendants
Michael R. Spaan, U.S. Attorney
701 C St., Mail Box 9, Anchorage AK 99513
(907) 271-5071