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Northern Alaska Envtl. Ctr. v. Lujan

ELR Citation: 22 ELR 21287
Nos. No. 91-35296, 961 F.2d 886/(9th Cir., 04/14/1992) Dissolution of injunction upheld

The court holds that the district court, in applying the rule of reason, did not abuse its discretion in dissolving an injunction when it held that the environmental impact statements (EISs) produced by the National Park Service (NPS), concerning the impact of any possible future mining activity in national parks in Alaska, are adequate under the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), because a further study of the effect on the environment will occur prior to granting any mining permit. The district court previously ordered the NPS to prepare EISs that studied cumulative environmental effects of mining before approving any further mining in three national parks in Alaska. The court first holds that the NPS' decision to continue to consider applications for mining operations until all the claims are acquired is not tantamount to approval of at least some mining operations, because alternatives developed within the court ordered EISs set forth standards based on existing state and federal regulatory requirements that a mining operation permit applicant must meet before a permit will be approved. The court holds that the EISs are adequate in their analyses of the cumulative effects of hypothetical mining scenarios to foster informed decisionmaking, because each EIS adequately discusses various environmental effects and evaluates possible alternatives to environmental impacts from future mining. The court next holds that detailed analysis of mitigation measures and cumulative and synergistic effects is unwarranted at this stage, because any alleged failure of the EISs to consider such measures and effects does not foreclose later analysis of these factors. Moreover, if the NPS determines in an environmental assessment that the cumulative impact of a proposed mining operation is not significant, the NPS has committed itself to issue a finding of no significant impact as required by NEPA, and the environmental groups will have an opportunity to comment and seek judicial review if NEPA has been violated.

[Previous decisions in this litigation are published at 15 ELR 21048, 16 ELR 20244, 17 ELR 20015, and 19 ELR 20865.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs-Appellants
Robert B. Briggs, Marilyn J. Twitchell
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
Fourth St., Ste. 25, Juneau AK 99801
(907) 586-2751

Counsel for Defendants-Appellees
Dennis Hopewell
Office of Solicitor Regional, Alaska Region
4230 University Dr., Ste. 300, Anchorage AK 99508
(907) 271-4131

Alarcon, J. (before Wright and Davies,* JJ.)