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Fund for Animals, Inc. v. Rice

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
85 F.3d 535 (1996)


Facts

Sarasota County, Florida (the County) (defendant) sought to build a municipal landfill. To that end, in November 1989, the County applied to the United States Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) (defendant) for a permit under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA prohibits the discharge of dredged or fill material into water without such a permit, and the Corps may grant the permit only if the proposed discharge is consistent with guidelines promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In June 1990, the Corps dispersed notice of the County’s permit application to government agencies, private organizations, and other interested parties. Upon receipt of this notice, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a Biological Opinion consenting to the project, and the EPA recommended denial. In response to the EPA’s recommendation, the County submitted an alternative proposal, which included a reduction of the total acreage to be affected. The EPA then withdrew its objections to the project, and the Corps granted the permit. Two weeks later, the Fund for Animals, Inc. (Fund) (plaintiffs) notified defendants of its intent to sue to prevent the construction of the landfill because the proposed site was inhabited by Florida Panthers and Eastern Indigo Snakes, species that the FWS had designated endangered and threatened. The FWS, which had not considered the effect on the Florida Panther or Eastern Indigo Snake when issuing its initial Biological Opinion, issued a new opinion, in which it concluded that the project was unlikely to jeopardize the existence of either species. After the FWS issued this new opinion, the Fund filed its lawsuit. The Corps suspended the County’s permit. Upon considering additional opinions from the FWS and its own independent environmental assessment, the Corps reinstated the permit with some modifications. The Fund filed a second amended complaint, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Dubina, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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