Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission v. EPA 684 F.2d 1041 (1st Cir. 1982)
A company called Pittston wanted to build an oil refinery
on the coast of Maine. This would result in oil tankers sailing past Campobello
Island, which had endangered species that would be at risk if there were a
major oil spill.
As part of the application process, Pittston applied for a
National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, as
required by the Clean Water Act, and wrote an Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) as required by NEPA.
In addition, Pittston had asked the US Coast Guard to do
some computer simulations of the local waterways to determine if the
passage was safe for navigation. However, the Coast Guard responded that
they wouldn't spend the money on running a simulation until they were
100% positive that the refinery would be built.
Otherwise it would be a waste of money.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) found that the
shipping was likely to jeopardize bald eagles and humpback whales in the
area, which would be unallowable under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Based on this determination, EPA denied Pittston's NPDES
Pittston sought an administrative review of the decision.
The EPA Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) overturned EPA's
decision and ordered that an NPDES permit be granted. The RCIPC appealed.
The ALJ concluded that the risk of an oil spill was
'minute', and that there was no risk to whales and eagles unless there
was a spill, so there was no problem.
The Appellate Court reversed and issued an injunction.
The Appellate Court found that under the ESA,
agencies must use the "best science available" to make their
determinations. In this case, the best science available would be a
computer simulation of the waterways. Until that was completed, they
couldn't conclusively state that the risk of an oil spill was 'minute'.
They ordered the permits to be delayed until the Coast
Guard performed their study.