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Western Organization of Resource Councils v. Zinke

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20098
Nos. 15-5294, (D.C. Cir., 06/19/2018)

The D.C. Circuit affirmed a lower court decision granting DOI's motion to dismiss an order compelling it to update the EIS for the federal coal management program. Environmental and community organizations claimed that the programmatic EIS (PEIS) for the program violated NEPA and the APA. They argued that DOI must issue a supplemental PEIS analyzing the climate impacts of federal coal leasing, which have been indicated in peer-reviewed scientific studies performed since the PEIS was last amended in 1985. But the court disagreed. NEPA requires an agency to update its EIS only when it has proposed major federal action that is not yet complete, and the groups failed to identify a specific pending action, apart from the continued existence of the program, that qualifies as a major federal action under NEPA. Because the DOI hasn't taken any new major federal action that would trigger NEPA, the court has no authority to force the agency to update the program's PEIS. The court, therefore, upheld the lower court's motion to dismiss.