Center for Environmental Law and Policy v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 08-19-2011
  • Case #: 10-35646
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge McKeown for the Court; Circuit Judges Schroeder and Callahan
  • Full Text Opinion

An agency satisfies NEPA “hard look” requirement, when it demonstrates that the foreseeable future impacts have been examined and past and present projects considered.

The Center for Environmental Law and Policy (CELP) contests the drawdown of water from eastern Washington’s Lake Roosevelt by the US Bureau of Reclamation, arguing that the consequences of the drawdown were not adequately assessed in CELP’s Environmental Assessment (EA) as required by NEPA. Specifically, CELP argues that the EA was untimely because Reclamation applied for water use permits beforehand, the cumulative effects analysis contained in the EA did not constitute a “hard look” at the project’s impact, and the indirect effects of the drawdown and possible alternatives were not fully analyzed. The district court granted summary judgment to Reclamation, ruling that the EA and environmental impact statements issued by the State of Washington on various drawdown projects complied with NEPA. The Ninth Circuit held that the EA was timely because it made no “irreversible commitments” by simply applying for water permits which it could chose to use or not use in the future. The Court further held that although the cumulative effects section of the EA was not as fleshed out as it could have been, the EA, taken as a whole, satisfies NEPA requirements by discussing related past projects and probable future impacts of the drawdown. AFFIRMED.

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