Robertson v. Methow Valley Citizens Council
490 U.S. 332 (1989)
MRI wanted to build a ski
resort on a mountain inside the Okanogan National Forest in Washington.
The US Forest Service liked
the idea, and wrote an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to determine
the environmental impact of the resort.
EISs are required under the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The 150 page EIS was released,
and found that there was no significant impact. The Forest Service gave MRI
a permit to build the ski resort.
The EIS said that there
might be an adverse impact on deer, but that the impact could be
mitigated. It did not provide details about what specific mitigations
actions were to be taken.
Some environmental groups (led
by MVCC) sued for an injunction.
MVCC argued that the EIS was
insufficient because it did not consider all of the impacts, and did not
have a plan to mitigate the impact of the resort.
The Trial Court found for the
Forest Service. MVCC appealed.
The Appellate Court reversed.
The Forest Service appealed.
The Appellate Court found
that NEPA imposes a substantive
duty on agencies to take action to mitigate the adverse effects of major
federal actions, which entails the further duty to include in every EIS a
detailed explanation of specific actions that will be employed to
mitigate the adverse impact.
The US Supreme Court reversed
and allowed the Forest Service to issue the permit.
The US Supreme Court found
that NEPA does not require
Agencies to mitigate adverse environmental effects or to include a fully
developed mitigation plan in each EIS.
The Court found that all NEPA required was that the Agency take a 'hard
look' at the environmental impact. It was up to each Agency to decide
what that meant.
The Court agreed that the
inclusion of a mitigation plan would be an important ingredient in an
EIS, it wasn't required.
How specific do you have to be
in setting forth mitigation actions when you find a possible adverse
Based on the decision in
this case, you can simply state that there may need to be regulations to
mitigate the situation, you do not have to get into the details.
Even if you go into details,
you don't have to consider every possible alternative. You only have to
come up with a reasonable number of alternatives, and it is up to the
authors of the EIS to determine how many alternatives should be included.