Sierra Club v. United States Army Corps of Engineers
701 F.2d 1011 (2d Cir 1983)

  • US Army Corps of Engineers was trying to build a new highway in Manhattan that required filling in some shoreline of the Hudson River.
  • Pursuant to the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Corps prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
    • The draft EIS concluded that the area being filled in was a "biological wasteland."
  • The US Fish and Wildlife Service objected to the conclusions and offered evidence that the area was a critical fish habitat.
  • The Corps issued a final EIS that did not change its finding that the area was a biological wasteland.
  • The Sierra Clubs sued to stop the project, on the grounds that the EIS was not adequate.
  • The Trial Court found for the Sierra Club and issued an injunction.  The Corps appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that the EIS did not adequately compile relevant information with respect to the impact on fish.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed and ordered a new EIS to be prepared.
    • The Appellate Court found that even though the judicial reviewability of EIS judgments should be construed very narrowly, the Court still had the authority to review the EIS to ensure that procedures had been adequately followed.
      • The US Supreme Court had previously ruled that the court review of the adequacy of EISs was limited to procedural issues, not substantitive issues.
    • The Appellate Court found that the Corps violated the procedures required by NEPA by failing to consider evidence about the fish in their final EIS.
      • Basically, the Corps failed to consider compiled information in good faith, and that procedural failure to consider all the information led them to make the erroneous conclusion that the area was a "biological wasteland."
  • The Appellate Court limited their ruling, saying that not all errors and inaccuracies should warrant a court ordering a new EIS.
    • The Court pointed out that if the Corps had adequately considered all the data and came to a clearly erroneous conclusion, the Court could not have ordered an injunction.
      • "The Court may not rule an EIS inadequate if the agency has made an adequate compilation of the relevant information, has analyzed it reasonably, has not ignored pertinent data, and had made disclosures to the public."
        • Basically, the court only insures that procedures are followed, they don't make substantitive or analytical judgments.