Calvert Cliffs Coordinating Committee v. United States
Atomic Energy Commission 449 F.2d 1109 (D.C. Cir. 1971)
The US AEC (forerunner of the Department of Energy) was
encouraging utilities to build nuclear power plants. Baltimore Gas and
Electric decided to build one in rural Maryland.
Two years after construction began, the Federal government
passed the National Environmental Policy Act (aka NEPA) 42
NEPA§102(2)(C) requires preparation of an Environmental
Impact Statement (EIS).
AEC issued a regulation requiring permit applicants to
prepare EISs. However, they felt that they did not have to consider the
conclusions of the report unless parties raised specific challenges to it
during the licensing process.
Basically, AEC was treating the EIS as just more
paperwork. The EIS needed to be prepared and filed, but it was not
considered within AEC's licensing board process to decide whether to
issue a permit or not.
No one at AEC would look at the EIS unless an
environmental issue was raised by a party to the proceeding.
Technically, NEPA only requires you to consider
the likely environmental effects of your activities. It doesn't say what
you should do once you've considered the problem.
A local environmental group (CCCC) sued AEC, arguing that
AEC's regulations violated NEPA because they did not require AEC to
independently assess environmental impacts.
The Appellate Court found for CCCC and remanded back to
AEC for further rulemaking to improve their regulations.
The Appellate Court noted that NEPA §102(2)(E)
requires that all Federal agencies must considered NEPA "to
the fullest extent possible."
The Appellate Court found that compliance "to the
fullest extent possible" demands that environmental issues be
considered at every important stage of the decision-making process.
The preparation of the EIS must be more than simply a
pro forma ritual.
Therefore, the Appellate Court found that AEC procedural
rules did not comply with Congressional policy as enunciated in NEPA.
This case established that NEPA has judicially
At this point, NEPA was new, and the concept that
individual people could use it to get the judiciary to tell the executive
branch what to do was a pretty radical idea.