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Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Forest Service

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20061
Nos. 2:17-cv-372, (S.D. Ohio, 03/13/2020) (Watson, J.)

A district court granted in part and denied in part a motion for summary judgment in a challenge to the Forest Service's and BLM's authorizations of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Wayne National Forest. Environmental groups argued the agencies violated NEPA by failing to take a "hard look" at the impacts of fracking prior to authorizing the activity. The court faulted the agencies for relying on a 2006 forest plan and 2006 EIS, prepared before fracking was a viable way of accessing oil and gas reserves, in performing their NEPA analysis, and thus failed to take into account all necessary impacts in the forest, namely surface area disturbance, impacts on the Indiana bat and Little Muskingum River, and impacts on air quality. The groups also argued the Service violated NEPA by failing to prepare a supplemental EIS prior to consenting to the activity, and that BLM failed to prepare an EIS prior to making its leasing decisions. The court disagreed, finding that although the agencies failed to take sufficiently hard looks at certain aspects of fracking, fracking was not as a matter of law a significant action requiring preparation of an EIS. It therefore granted in part and denied in part the groups' motion, and ordered a briefing on the appropriate remedy.