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Center for Biological Diversity v. Salazar

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20025
Nos. 11-17843, (9th Cir., 02/04/2013)

The Ninth Circuit held that BLM complied with NEPA and FLPMA when it allowed a uranium mine to resume operations, after a 17-year hiatus, under a plan of operations the agency approved in 1988. Environmental groups argued that the 1988 plan of operations became ineffective after the mine closed in the early 1990s, thereby necessitating BLM approval of a new plan of operations before mining could recommence in 2009. But the applicable regulations expressly provide for periods of temporary cessation of mining activities, and no regulation requires approval of a new plan of operations before regular mining activities may recommence following a temporary closure. The groups also argued that BLM's issuance of a gravel permit to the surrounding county, requirement that the mine obtain a new air quality control permit, and approval of an updated reclamation bond constituted major federal actions triggering supplementation of the 1988 EA BLM prepared in connection with its approval of the plan of operations. But none of these actions affect the validity or completeness of the 1988 approval of the plan of operations under NEPA. In addition, BLM appropriately found that issuance of the gravel permit fell into a categorical exclusion and adequately explained why the permit had no cumulatively significant environmental effects preventing application of the categorical exclusion. And BLM's update of the reclamation bond for the mine did not constitute approval of a specific project necessitating NEPA review.