Tri-Valley CARE v. United State Department of Energy

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 02-07-2012
  • Case #: 10-17636
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Smith M.D. Smith for the Court; Circuit Judge Noonan and Senior District Judge Rakoff
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the National Environmental Policy Act analysis, analogizing triggering events, comparing critical distinctions, and considering uniquely different circumstances satisfy the requisite "hard look" the Department of Energy must make at the environmental consequences of their actions.

Tri-Valley CAREs challenged the sufficiency of the United States Department of Energy's ("DOE") Environmental Assessment ("EA") of a prospective "biosafety level-3" facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory ("LLNL"). The current litigation addressed DOE's failure to consider the impact of a possible intentional terrorist attack in their EA. The Ninth Circuit previously remanded the case to address this issue, and the district court entered summary judgment in favor of DOE on the grounds that DOE sufficiently revised its Final Revised Environmental Assessment to adequately consider the environmental impact of an intentional terrorist attack on the BSL-3 facility at LLNL. Tri-Valley CAREs appealed the district court decision, petitioning the Court to require the DOE to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS"), or revise the EA, due to allegations from their original complaint. The Ninth Circuit found that DOE's use of the "Maximum Credible Event" centrifuge model is sufficient under National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA") and case precedent, because the DOE reasonably justified its selection based upon the record of evidence and additional analysis of site-specific factors. The Ninth Circuit held that the DOE took the requisite "hard look" at the environmental impact of an intentional terrorist attack in the manner required by NEPA, and affirmed the district court's ruling. Furthermore, the Court held the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Tri-Valley CARE's motion to supplement the record. AFFIRMED.

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