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American Rivers v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20113
Nos. 16-1195, (D.C. Cir., 07/06/2018)

The D.C. Circuit vacated a license renewal that FERC granted for a power plant on the Coosa River. Environmental groups argued that the agency violated the Federal Power Act, NEPA, and the ESA when it issued the power company's license. The appellate court agreed, finding that the EA and biological opinion on which the agency relied to issue the license were insufficiently reasoned and unsupported by substantial evidence. The EA revealed several issues with the generation project, including complete destruction of endangered mussels and a large loss of indigenous fish. Given these issues, the agency should have conducted an EIS before agreeing to renew the power plant's license. The biological opinion was arbitrary because it anticipated that the generation project could result in 90 to 100 percent loss of some at-risk species, but then concluded the project would not jeopardize any species. Because the agency's issuance of the license was arbitrary and capricious, the court vacated the licensing decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.