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Natural Resources Defense Council v. Department of Energy

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20103
Nos. No. 04-04448, (N.D. Cal., 05/02/2007)

A district court held that the DOE's March 2003 decision regarding the remediation of Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in Simi Valley, California, violated NPA. DOE's decision to issue a FONSI rather than prepare an EIS was a clear error of judgment. The remediation is not categorically exempt from the EIS requirement by virtue of DOE's characterization of it as a cleanup. Further, DOE's remediation decision is highly controversial, and DOE's remediation decision presents possible effects on the human environment that are highly uncertain or involve unique or unknown risks. Moreover, Area IV is known to be radiologically contaminated, was the location of at least one well-known nuclear meltdown, and is located only miles away from one of the largest population centers in the world and, in all probability, will become a part of that center. The court, however, reserved judgment on the environmental groups' CERCLA and ESA claims. Should the groups come to believe that future actions by DOE give rise to claims based on the ESA, CERCLA, or both, they are free to bring such claims before the court at that time.