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Klein v. United States Department of Energy

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20114
Nos. 13-1165, (6th Cir., 05/21/2014)

The Sixth Circuit held that DOE's environmental review of a proposed plant that would convert lumber into ethanol complied with NEPA. The company that plans to build the plant sought financial assistance from DOE, which is directed to fund alternative energy projects under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. DOE therefore conducted an environmental review of the project before awarding the grant. An environmental group filed suit, alleging DOE's FONSI was inadequate. But DOE completed a thorough environmental assessment of the plant and reasonably described the environmental impacts the assessment identifies as not significant. NEPA requires no more. The court, therefore, affirmed a lower court's ruling on this issue, thereby dismissing the case on the merits. But the court reversed the lower court's finding that the case could also be dismissed for lack of standing. The lower court determined that because the plant would go forward with or without DOE funding, the group failed to establish causation and redressability. The appellate court disagreed. Although the record is sparse, one can reasonably infer that the project would not proceed if more than one third of its funding disappeared, especially since that funding takes the form of a grant rather than a loan.