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Cantrell v. Long Beach, City of

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20438
Nos. No. 98-56940, 241 F.3d 674/(9th Cir., 02/05/2001)

The court holds that an environmental group had standing under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to challenge the adequacy of the U.S. Navy's environmental impact statement (EIS) regarding the future use of the Long Beach Naval Station in California, but the group did not establish taxpayer standing to bring their state-law claims in federal court. At the time the group initiated the action, portions of the naval station served as a habitat for several bird species and two federally endangered species. After announcing that the station would be closed, the Navy issued an EIS and decided to convert the station into a marine container terminal. In accordance with this plan, the trees at the station were destroyed and the shallow water habitat was dredged.

The court first holds that the group's claim is not moot because effective relief may still be available in the form of alternative reuse plans for the station and mitigation to damage to the birds' habitat. The court also holds that the group has standing to bring its claim because it has demonstrated a sufficiently concrete interest to establish injury-in-fact. The removal of the trees and shallow water habitat at the naval station directly and concretely affected the group's recreational and aesthetic interests. It is immaterial whether the group has a legal right of access to the naval station because their desire to view the birds from publicly accessible locations outside the station is an interest sufficient to confer standing. Similarly, it is irrelevant whether the birds have been injured because the relevant showing for standing is injury to the plaintiff, not injury to the environment. The court next holds that the group has standing even though they cannot establish that a revised EIS would result in a different reuse plan for the station. The court then holds that the group does not have standing as taxpayers to bring their state-law "waste of government funds" claims in federal court because they failed to show a direct pocketbook injury resulting from the station's destruction and the terminal's construction.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Richard I. Fine
Law Offices of Richard I. Fine
1840 Century Park E., Los Angeles CA 90067
(310) 277-5833

Counsel for Defendants
M. Katherine Jensen
Rutan & Tucker
611 Anton Blvd., 14th Fl., Costa Mesa CA 92626
(714) 641-5100

Before Berzon and Breyer,1 JJ.