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Ocoee River Council v. Tennessee Valley Auth.

Citation: 12 ELR 20988
No. No. CIV-1-81-100, 540 F. Supp. 788/18 ERC 1195/(E.D. Tenn., 06/03/1982)

The court rules that the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA's) decision to rebuild a hydroelectric power generating facility and to allow releases of water to preserve recreational uses of the river only if outside funding becomes available was consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The court first rules that NEPA renders TVA's decisions, which before enactment of that statute were not justiciable, subject to judicial review. It next holds that TVA's environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project satisfies the requirements of NEPA. The EIS discusses in detail all the relevant construction and recreational alternatives associated with the proposed project. TVA's failure to discuss one potential pollution problem is insufficient to invalidate the EIS because the record demonstrates that the problem is insignificant. The EIS need not have specifically addressed the alternative actually selected by TVA where it fully discussed the environmental effects associated with that alternative. TVA's decision to treat only the impacts of this project, not the cumulative effects of agency actions on whitewater recreation areas, was within the agency's discretion and not arbitrary. Nor was TVA's estimate of the value of recreational use, which it used in calculating the project's cost/benefit ratio, arbitrary, because it used the maximum value for such use established by the Water Resources Council.

The court also rules that TVA violated NEPA and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by failing to consider the environmental impacts of its decision to allow no water releases for recreational purposes absent outside funding. Although TVA must use its funds primarily for flood control, navigation, and power purposes, NEPA does not by implication repeal TVA's substantive statutory obligations. On the contrary, NEPA enlarges those obligations and its procedural requirements are binding on all federal agencies. However, the court refused to issue an injunction, but stayed TVA's actions for 90 days for reconsideration of its decisions in light of NEPA. On review of TVA's explicit consideration of the project's environmental impacts, the court rules that although TVA did not change its decision, it did comply with NEPA and dismisses the lawsuit.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Charles H. Warfield
Farris, Warfield & Canaday
Third Nat'l Bank Bldg., Nashville TN 37219
(615) 244-5200

Counsel for Defendant
Herbert S. Sanger Jr., James E. Fox, Justin M. Schwamm Sr., Robert C. Glinski, Melvin L. Harper
Tennessee Valley Authority
400 Commerce Ave., Knoxville TN 37902
(615) 632-2101