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National Parks Conservation Ass'n v. Manson

ELR Citation: 35 ELR 20140
Nos. No. 04-5327, (D.C. Cir., 07/01/2005)

The court held that a district court erred in dismissing environmental groups' suit challenging the issuance of a permit to construct a power plant near Yellowstone National Park for lack of standing. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality issued the permit after the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) withdrew its adverse impact letter for the plant. Regardless of whether the groups' injury is procedural or substantive in nature, the question of standing must turn on the strength of the link between the DOI's withdrawal of the letter and the state agency's decision to issue the permit. Here, the DOI's withdrawal of its impact letter was virtually dispositive of the state permitting decision. In addition, federal regulations and the Montana air quality regulations are intertwined such that the challenged federal action "alters the legal regime to which the [local] agency action is subject." Thus, the state agency is not a truly independent actor whose intervening action breaks the causal chain required for standing. And although a federal district court ruling in favor of the groups would not directly determine whether the plant will get its permit, the effect of such a ruling would not be far removed and therefore satisfies the redressibility prong of standing.