Appendix 33: Abstracts of Selected Supreme Court Litigation Under NEPA

AuthorNicholas C. Yost
Abstracts of Selected Supreme Court Litigation Under NEPA Page 573
Monsanto Co. v. Gee rtson Seed Farms, 130 S.
Ct. 2743 (June 21, 2010)
e U.S. Supreme Court held that a distr ict court
abused its discretion in enjoini ng the Animal and
Plant Health Inspect ion Service (A PHIS) from eect-
ing a partia l deregulation of Roundup Ready Alfal fa
(RR A), a variety of al falfa genetically engineered to
tolerate the herbicide Roundup, and in prohibiting the
planting of RR A pending the Agency’s completion of
an EIS under NEPA. Petitioners and the government
do not dispute that APHIS’ dereg ulation decision
violated NEPA, but they chal lenge the scope of the
relief granted. None of the four factors for g ranting
permanent injunctive relief support s the district court’s
order enjoining APHIS from part ially deregulating
RR A during the pendency of t he EIS process. Most
importantly, respondents cannot show that t hey will
suer irreparable injur y if APHIS is allowed to pro-
ceed with any par tial deregulation. And becau se it was
inappropriate for the district cou rt to foreclose even
the possibility of a par tial and temporary deregulat ion,
it follows that it was inappropriate to enjoin plant-
ing in accordance w ith such a deregulation decision.
An injunction is a dra stic and extraordinary remedy
that should not be granted as a m atter of course. If,
as respondents concede, a less d rastic remedy (such
as partia l or complete vacatur of A PHIS’ deregula-
tion decision) was sucient to redress t heir injury, no
recourse to the additiona l and extraordinary relief of
an injunction was war ranted. e Court, therefore,
reversed and remanded t he Ninth Circuit decision
arming t he district court.
Winter v. Natural R esources Defense Council,
555 U.S. 7 (Nov. 12, 2008)
e U.S. Supreme Court vacated a lower court’s
preliminar y injunction concerning t he Navy’s use of
“mid-frequency active” (MFA) sonar during i ntegrated
training e xercises in the waters o sout hern Californ ia
(SOCAL). e plaintis —groups and individuals
devoted to the protection of marine ma mmals and
ocean habitats —assert that MFA sonar causes ser i-
ous injuries to these ani mals. e Navy disputes that
claim, noting that M FA sonar trainin g in SOCAL
waters has been conducted for 40 yea rs without a
single documented sonar-related injury to a ny marine
mammal. Pla intis sued the Navy, seeking declarator y
and injunctive relief on the grounds t hat the training
exercises violated NEPA and other federa l laws; in par-
ticular, plainti s contend that the Navy shou ld have
prepared an environmenta l impact statement before
conducting the latest round of SOC AL exercises.
e district cour t entered a preliminar y injunction
prohibiting the Navy from using M FA sonar during
its training e xercises. e Court of A ppeals held that
this injunction was overbroad a nd remanded to the
district cour t for a narrower remedy. e district cour t
then entered another prelimina ry injunction, imposing
six restrictions on the Nav y’s use of sonar during its
SOCAL tra ining exercises. e Navy then sought relief
from the Executive Branch, a nd the CEQ authorized
the Navy to implement “alternative arra ngements”
to NEPA compliance in light of “emergency circum-
stances.” e CEQ allowed the Nav y to continue its
training e xercises under voluntar y mitigation proce-
dures that the Navy h ad previously adopted. In light
of the CEQ’s actions, the Navy moved to vacate the
district cour t’s preliminary injunct ion. e district
court refuse d to do so, and the Court of Appe als
armed. e Cour t of Appeals held that there was a
serious question whether the CEQ’s interpretation of
the “emergency circumsta nces” regulation was lawful,
that plainti s had carried their burden of establish-
ing a “possibility” of irrepa rable injury, and that the
preliminar y injunction was appropriate becau se the
balance of hard ships and consideration of the public
interest favored the plainti s. But the Supreme Court
disagreed, vac ating the preliminary injunction to t he
extent challenged by t he Navy. e balance of equi-
ties and the public interest tip st rongly in favor of the
Navy. e Navy’s need to conduct realistic tra ining
with active sonar to resp ond to the threat posed by
enemy submarines plain ly outweighs the intere sts
advanced by the plainti s.
Norton v. Souther n Utah Wilderness All iance,
542 U.S. 55 (June 14, 2004)
e U.S. Supreme Court held that a distr ict court
lacked subject matter juris diction to review an environ-
mental group’s claims that the Bure au of Land Man-
agement (BLM) violated the Federa l Land Policy and
Management Act (FL PMA) and NEPA by not properly
managing o-road vehic le (ORV) use on federal lands
classied as w ilderness study areas (WSA s). e Tenth
Circuit reversed the dis trict court’s dismissal of the
claims, but the Supreme Court held th at BLM’s alleged
failures to act a re not remediable under the APA. A n
APA §706(1) claim can procee d only where a plainti
asserts th at an agency failed to take a dis crete agency
action that it is required to ta ke. Here, the group
claims that BL M violated FLPMA’s nonimpairment
mandate by permittin g ORV use in certai n WSAs. But
Abstracts of Selected U.S. Supreme Court Cases

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