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Oregon Natural Desert Association et al. v. Jewell

840 F.3d 562 (2016)

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Oregon Natural Desert Association et al. v. Jewell

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

840 F.3d 562 (2016)

Facts

The Echanis Wind Energy Project was a proposed wind-energy facility with between 40 to 69 wind turbines to be built on Steens Mountain in Harney County, Oregon. The Steens Mountain was home to a sagebrush habitat that was essential for the survival of sage grouse birds. The project involved the construction of an overhead electric transmission line and associated facilities on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) (defendant). Columbia Energy Partners received a conditional-use permit from Harney County to develop the project. The entire project was subject to environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because the construction of the turbines was a connected action to the construction of the transmission lines over the public lands administered by the BLM. The BLM authored a draft environmental-impact statement (DEIS) and paid particular concern to the sage grouse population. In response to the DEIS, the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) (plaintiff) submitted comments on a variety of issues. The BLM ultimately issued a final environmental-impact statement (FEIS) and record of decision (ROD) and selected the North Route transmission line to implement. The BLM did not conduct a survey of the North Route to determine whether any sage grouse were present at the site during the winter months but instead relied on surveys conducted at the similar East and West Ridge sites that asserted no sage grouse were present at those locations in the winter. Contrary evidence showed that sage grouse actually did use the East Ridge site during the winter. ONDA filed a complaint against the BLM in district court challenging the adequacy of the environmental review under NEPA. The court granted summary judgment for the BLM. ONDA appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Berzon, J.)

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