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Law School Case Brief

Strycker's Bay Neighborhood Council, Inc. v. Karlen - 444 U.S. 223, 100 S. Ct. 497 (1980)


42 U.S.C.S. § 4321, while establishing significant substantive goals for the nation, imposes upon agencies duties that are "essentially procedural." The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) is designed to insure a fully informed and well-considered decision, but not necessarily a decision the judges of the court of appeals or the United States Supreme Court would have reached had they been members of the decision-making unit of the agency.


A New York city planning Commission, in conjunction with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), formulated an urban renewal plan which called for a mix of middle-income and low-income housing and designated a particular site for middle-income housing. After several amendments, which included changing it to a site for low-income housing with the approval of HUD , the Commission submitted the plan. An action was brought in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to enjoin the Commission and HUD from constructing low-income housing on the site, but the District Court declined to grant the injunction. On the first appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit remanded the case on the ground that HUD had not complied with the requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that an agency "study, develop, and describe appropriate alternatives to recommended courses of action in any proposal which involves unresolved conflicts concerning alternative uses of available resources." HUD prepared a lengthy report on remand that supported the construction of low-income housing on the site, considered and rejected alternative sites, and concluded that any relocation of the project would entail an unacceptable delay. The District Court supported HUD's analysis, but on appeal the Court of Appeals vacated and remanded again, concluding that the delay created by selecting an alternate site could not be "an overriding factor" in HUD's decision, and that HUD had to give "determinative weight" to environmental considerations in reaching its decision. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari. 


Is the judgment of the appellate court to reject the environmental impact statement of petitioners proper?




The United States Supreme Court reversed, concluding that held once HUD had made a decision subject to the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C.S. 421 et seq., the only role for the court of appeals was to insure that the environmental consequences had been considered. The court found that there was no doubt that HUD had considered the environmental consequences of its decision.

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