Sierra Club v. Bureau of Land Management

786 F.3d 1219 (2015)

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Sierra Club v. Bureau of Land Management

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
786 F.3d 1219 (2015)

  • Written by Tanya Munson, JD

Facts

The Wind Project was a wind-energy project developed by North Sky on more than 12,000 acres of private land in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California. North Sky applied to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for a right-of-way over federal land for the Road Project to connect the Wind Project to an existing state highway and connect the Wind Project with underground power and fiber-optic lines to California’s power grid. The Road Project would provide dust control, reduce erosion, and reduce unauthorized vehicle access to the Pacific Crest Trail. BLM reviewed the Road Project proposal and issued an environmental assessment finding that there would be no significant environmental impact. Thus, BLM was not required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) or prepare an environmental-impact statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). BLM consulted with the FWS under the ESA, but the FWS determined that there were no endangered species in the Road Project area. BLM issued a finding of no significant impact under NEPA. BLM did not consult on the effects of the Wind Project because the Wind Project was developed by a private company on private land and was thus not agency action. North Sky had also proposed an alternative to the Road Project of constructing an alternative route of access on private lands. The private Wind Project was not dependent on the public Road Project, and they were separate and independent ventures. BLM issued a permit for the Road Project. The Sierra Club subsequently sued BLM in district court, alleging that the Wind Project was interrelated to or interdependent on the Road Project and the decision to grant the easement through federal land violated both the ESA and NEPA because the Wind Project required consultation under both. The district court granted summary judgment for BLM, and Sierra Club appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rawlinson, J.)

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