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Sierra Club v. United States Forest Service

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20188
Nos. 15-cv-10154, (E.D. Mich., 09/30/2015) (Ludington, J.)

A district court held that the U.S. Forest Service did not violate NEPA or the APA when it reissued a 30-year special use permit allowing an energy company to continue operating a portion of a 1,100-mile pipeline through the Huron-Manistee National Forest. Built in 1953, the pipeline transports crude oil between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario. At issue in this case is an 8.1-mile section of pipeline that runs through the forest. In renewing the permit, the Forest Service determined that it qualified for a categorical exclusion from NEPA, but environmental groups disagreed and filed suit. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the court sided with the Forest Service. The categorical exclusion was appropriate because there were no changes to the scope and intensity of the activities regulated by the Forest Service, the decision will have no effect on endangered species, and renewal of the permit constitutes only an administrative action that does not authorize any change to the existing pipeline. Consequently, the groups' claims that the Forest Service was required to analyze cumulative impacts or prepare an EIS lack merit.