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North Slope Borough v. Minerals Management Serv.

ELR Citation: 38 ELR 20014
Nos. No. 3:07-cv-0045, (D. Alaska, 01/08/2008)

A district court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Alaska native groups seeking to rescind certain oil and gas leases issued by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) in 2007. The MMS prepared an EIS in 2003 for lease sales that were to occur in 2003, 2005, and 2007. Because of the time lag between the 2003 environmental impact statement (EIS) and the 2007 lease sale, the MMS decided to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) to determine whether it should supplement the 2003 EIS. It then issued a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the 2007 lease sale. The groups argued that the MMS' decision not to prepare a supplemental EIS was arbitrary and capricious. But the MMS did not fail to take a hard look at the concerns raised by the groups prior to concluding that a supplemental EIS was not necessary. In fact, by preparing an EA to determine whether it should supplement the 2003 EIS, the MMS exceeded the documentary requirements. Penalizing MMS for conducting a more-thorough-than-necessary review would discourage the use of an EA to determine whether to supplement an EIS. Nor was the MMS' FONSI arbitrary and capricious.