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Wildearth Guardians v. Chao

ELR Citation: 49 ELR 20086
Nos. CV-18-110-GF-BMM, (D. Mont., 05/23/2019) (Morris, J.)

A district court denied the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's (PHMSA's) motion to dismiss a challenge to the agency's pipeline inspection regulations. An environmental group argued that PHMSA's existing regulations did not encompass all oil and gas pipelines that crossed federal lands, as required under the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA), and that the agency's failure to inspect these pipelines constituted agency inaction, in violation of the APA. PHMSA asserted that the group had no viable claim under the APA and that the group's alleged injuries were not "fairly traceable" to the agency's actions. The court found that the MLA required PHMSA to take a discrete action to annually inspect all pipelines, and that the group properly asserted that the agency failed to take this required action. Further, it found that the group's alleged injury arising from PHMSA's failure to inspect the pipelines constituted a sufficiently particularized injury. PHMSA also asserted that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the group's claim. But the court was persuaded that it should exercise jurisdiction over the narrow issued raised by the group given the lack of a fully developed administrative record. It therefore denied PHMSA's motion to dismiss.