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Nulankeyutmonen Nkihtaqmikon v. Impson

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20241
Nos. No. 06-2733, (1st Cir., 09/14/2007)

The court holds that a lower court improperly dismissed Native Americans' case against the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for leasing tribal land to a developer to construct a liquefied natural gas terminal. The plaintiffs argued that the BIA failed to appraise the land, to prepare an environmental assessment, to provide an opportunity for public comment, or to consider the historical, religious, and cultural significance of the leased land in violation of the Leasing Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Administrative Procedure Act. The lower court dismissed all of their claims, concluding that either the claims were not ripe or that the plaintiffs lacked standing. The circuit court reversed. It is clear that the violations and injuries alleged in their complaint are the sort that NEPA, the NHPA, and the ESA were specifically designed to protect, and the plaintiffs are asserting their own interests rather than those of third parties. In addition, their interests arguably fall within the zone of interests protected by the Leasing Act. And given the BIA's reversal of position as to the lease's finality, the case is ripe. While the construction of the terminal is hypothetical and uncertain at this juncture, the approval of the lease is complete. The dispute is not over the hypothetical construction and operation of a liquefied natural gas terminal, but the allegedly improper approval of the lease that is the prerequisite to the terminal.