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Sierra Club v. United States Army Corps of Engineers

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20182
Nos. 14-5205, (D.C. Cir., 09/29/2015)

The D.C. Circuit upheld the dismissal of an environmental group's NEPA and CWA claims against the U.S. government in connection with a 593-mile oil pipeline that runs from Illinois to Oklahoma on both public and private lands. Despite the group's claims to the contrary, the government was not required to conduct a NEPA analysis of the entirety of the pipeline, including portions not subject to federal control or permitting. The agencies' regulatory actions—in the form of easements, CWA verifications, and authorization to harm or kill endangered species without incurring liability under the ESA—were limited to discrete geographic segments of the pipeline comprising less than five percent of its overall length. Although the agencies were required to conduct a NEPA analysis of the foreseeable direct and indirect effects of those regulatory actions, they were not required to also analyze the impact of the construction and operation of the entire pipeline under the facts of this case. The court also upheld the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' verifications of the pipeline's water crossings under Nationwide Permit 12. The Corps was authorized to conduct its review on a regional rather than nationwide basis, and the Corps' District Managers adequately supported their verification decisions. And the lower court did not abuse its discretion in denying the group's motion to supplement and amend its complaint because the proposed new allegations would not have affected the dispositive legal analysis.