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Sierra Club, Inc. v. United States Forest Service

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20134
Nos. 17-2399, (4th Cir., 07/27/2018)

The Fourth Circuit vacated and remanded BLM's decision granting a right-of-way through federal land for construction of a pipeline and the U.S. Forest Service's decision to amend the Jefferson National Forest Land Resource Management Plan to accommodate the right-of-way and pipeline construction. Environmental groups argued that BLM violated its obligations under the Mineral Leasing Act because it failed to demonstrate that alternatives that would make greater use of existing rights-of-way were impractical. The court agreed, concluding that the agency never decided that the utilization of an existing right-of-way would be impractical. The groups further argued that the Forest Service violated the National Forest Management Act when it amended its resource management plan for the Jefferson National Forest to allow the pipeline crossing. The court held that the Forest Service improperly applied requirements under a 2012 soil and riparian planning rule to its amendments to the Jefferson Forest Plan. The court therefore granted the groups' petitions for review, vacated the agencies' decisions, and remanded to the respective agencies for further proceedings.