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Kunaknana v. United States Army Corps of Engineers

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20127
Nos. 3:13-cv-00044, -00095, (D. Alaska, 05/27/2014) (Gleason, J.)

A district court held that an environmental group lacked standing to challenge a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit issued to an oil company to fill certain wetlands in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska for a future drill site. The group's members have not demonstrated the requisite injury in fact necessary to confer standing on the organization. The members' connections to Arctic Alaska and to Arctic species are insufficient to make a credible contention that their aesthetic and recreational interests will suffer if the drill site is developed. A group of Inupiat Eskimos, however, do have standing. The Inupiats, which conducts subsistence activities in the vicinity of the project area, demonstrated an injury-in-fact traceable to the Corps’ actions and redressable by a favorable court decision. As for the merits of their claims, the court held that the Corps failed to articulate a satisfactory explanation for its decision not to prepare a supplemental EIS under NEPA. But it opted not to rule on whether, and to what extent, the Corps should evaluate post-2004 climate change information at this time. Likewise, the court held it would be premature to determine whether the Corps’ decision to issue the §404 permit violated the CWA until after the NEPA claim has been resolved. The court, therefore, requested further briefing from the parties as to how the case should proceed.