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International Ctr. for Tech. Assessment v. Johanns

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20044
Nos. No. 03-cv-00020-HHK, (D.D.C., 02/05/2007)

A district court held that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) arbitrarily and capriciously denied petitions to list certain genetically engineered varieties of grasses as noxious weeds under the Plant Protection Act. APHIS' insistence that international obligations require that plants that are new to or not widely prevalent in the United States must be eligible for listing as noxious weeds was arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law. On remand, however, APHIS retains considerable discretion in its listing decision. In addition, APHIS violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it permitted field tests to be conducted without preparing an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement under NEPA. Specifically, APHIS failed to adequately determine whether the field tests were categorically exempt from NEPA. The record contains substantial evidence that the field tests may have had the potential to affect significantly the quality of the human environment, and that the tests may have involved, at the least, novel modifications that raised new environmental issues. APHIS failed, however, to consider any of these possibilities.