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Save Our Cabinets v. Department of Agriculture

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20073
Nos. CV 16-53-M & CV 16-56-M, (D. Mont., 05/30/2017) (Molloy, J.)

A district court held that the approval of a mining project in Montana violated NEPA, the CWA, and the National Forest Management Act. A mining company submitted a plan to the Forest Service and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to extract copper and silver from an ore vein that ran beneath federal land. The Forest Service ordered that an EIS be performed. On February 27, 2009, a Draft EIS was issued for public comment. After revisions, a joint EIS was issued by the Forest Service and the mining company in December 2015. The DEQ approved the evaluation phase of the project only, and the mining company brought suit to allow the project to proceed in its entirety. Environmentalists challenged the approval, arguing that the project would affect water quality and stream flows, as well as the Forest Service's consideration of mitigation measures and public access during the NEPA process. The court held that the project violated the state's water nondegradation requirements, and that the "neutral" finding reached by the Forest Service based on mitigation measures was arbitrary and capricious. The plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment was denied in part and granted in part, and the case was remanded for further proceedings.