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Michigan Gambling Opposition v. Kempthorne

ELR Citation: 38 ELR 20102
Nos. No. 07-5092, (D.C. Cir., 04/29/2008)

The D.C. Circuit held that the U.S. Department of the Interior's (DOI's) approval of a proposed casino on Native American lands did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). An internal DOI document states that proposals for "large" and/or "potentially controversial" gaming establishments should require the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS). A citizens group therefore argued that the DOI should have prepared an EIS rather than issuing a finding of no significant impact because the casino will be "large" and "controversial." The internal document, however, is not binding on the DOI. The DOI's Council on Environmental Quality-approved NEPA procedures, codified in the agency's departmental manual, do not encompass the internal document. The manual includes lists of activities that normally require or do not require an EIS or an environmental assessment, and the DOI followed those procedures in this case. The court also rejected the group's claim that §5 of the Indian Reorganization Act is an unconstitutional delegation of authority to the Secretary of the Interior. The statute provides an intelligible principle limiting the DOI's discretion on what land to acquire when it authorizes the Secretary to acquire land “for the purpose of providing land for Indians,” namely, the Secretary is to exercise his powers in order to further economic development and self-governance among Native American tribes.