Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C.S. § 4321 et seq., requires preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) whenever a proposed major federal action will significantly affect the quality of the human environment. 42 U.S.C.S. § 4332(2)(C). To determine the nature of the environmental impact from a proposed action and whether an EIS will be required, federal agencies prepare an environmental assessment. 40 C.F.R. § 1501.4(b) & (c) (1982). If on the basis on the Environmental Assessment the agency finds that the proposed action will produce "no significant impact" on the environment, then an EIS need not be prepared. 40 C.F.R. § 1501.4(e).
Appellees did not prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to their decision to issue oil and gas leases on national forest land because they determined that the issuance of the leases would not result in significant environmental impacts to the environment. The appellant environmental organization brought an action for declaratory and injunctive relief, which claimed the leasing program violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C.S. § 4321 et seq., because an EIS was required. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of appellees. Appellant sought review.
Did the leasing program violate the NEPA for the appellees’ failure to prepare an EIS?
On appeal, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded the case. The court held that appellees failed to comply with NEPA. The court ruled that the finding that "no significant impact" would occur as a result of the leases was not supportable on the record. The court concluded that appellees could not preclude surface disturbing activities once the land was leased. The court ruled that in order to comply with NEPA, appellees had to prepare an EIS prior to leasing or retain the authority to preclude surface disturbing activities until an environmental analysis was completed.