Tag Archives: NEPA

Federal District Court Halts Construction of Louisiana Pipeline Due to Corps’ Failure to Explain Off-Site Mitigation

This week, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana granted a preliminary injunction halting construction of the $750 million Bayou Bridge Pipeline. Judge Shelly D. Dick concluded that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in authorizing the project, did not provide sufficient explanation for how the proposed off-site mitigation would compensate for the loss of wetlands impacted by construction. In addition, the Court found the Corps’ environmental analysis failed to sufficiently consider and address historical impacts to wetlands from similarly situated pipelines. Thus, the Court held that these deficiencies likely violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and ordered the 162-mile oil pipeline to halt construction within the Atchafalaya Basin, a large wetland habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife species and a critical component of regulating flooding and stream recharge in the region. As we recently saw with the D.C. Circuit’s decision to vacate authorizations for the Sabal Trail Pipeline, this is another example of courts and environmental organizations relying on errors in a federal agency’s NEPA analysis to justify enjoining pipeline construction or operations.… Continue Reading

Ambitious White House Infrastructure Legislation Proposal Would Make Major Changes to Environmental Permitting and Reviews

  On Monday, the Trump Administration released an ambitious legislative proposal that aims to stimulate $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure investment over the next 10 years, expedite the federal permitting process, address rural infrastructure needs, and prepare the American workforce for the future. To accomplish those goals, the proposal includes aggressive recommendations to streamline key … Continue Reading

D.C. Circuit Raises the Stakes: NEPA Defect Sufficient to Halt Pipeline Operations

Federal agencies that authorize or permit large infrastructure projects, like interstate natural gas pipelines, are often subject to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, and environmental organizations frequently rely on NEPA to challenge a project. The D.C. Circuit recently struck down a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve the construction and operation of three interstate natural gas pipelines because the Court found defects in FERC’s NEPA analysis. The court’s decision to vacate FERC’s authorization now threatens to shut down the pipelines, including the Sabal Trail pipeline currently supplying natural gas to newly constructed power plants in Florida.… Continue Reading

Federal Judge Declines to Shut Down Dakota Access Pipeline While Corps Corrects Errors in Environmental Review

Once large infrastructure projects, such as oil and natural gas pipelines, receive federal government approval, they are often the target of legal challenges from opposition groups. Opponents repeatedly argue that the environmental review, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), was insufficient. If a court finds deficiencies in the government’s NEPA analysis, can a court halt construction or cease operations even after years of project design, permit approvals at all levels of government, and tens of millions of dollars in investment? This question was at the heart of the ongoing litigation involving the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), and, on October 11, Judge James Boasberg determined “no,” the court would not shut down the pipeline. This case is important precedent for projects being challenged under NEPA. … Continue Reading

Will Executive Direction Accelerate Federal Environmental Review and Permitting?

Several presidential administrations have sought to shorten the lengthy process for obtaining federal authorizations and permits, with particular attention on infrastructure projects that usually require multiple federal permits with accompanying environmental reviews. Despite consistent interest in improving this process, delays persist, in part because of how courts have interpreted the level of analysis required during … Continue Reading

Federal Court Remands Corps Environmental Analysis for Dakota Access Pipeline

Despite oil already flowing through the pipeline, federal litigation involving the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) took another turn last week when partial summary judgment was granted to tribes challenging the adequacy of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ review of DAPL under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other statutes. Two tribes, the … Continue Reading

President Orders Expedited Review of Infrastructure Projects – Bringing Natural Resource Issues to the Forefront

Yesterday President Trump signed several Executive Orders (EOs) and Presidential Memoranda designed to speed environmental permitting and reviews. Among them is an EO to “Expedite Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects.” While past administrations have recognized the costs and delays of federal environmental permitting and encouraged timely decisions by regulatory agencies (e.g., EOs … Continue Reading

US Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Decision to Issue Five-Year Eagle Take Permit for California Wind Energy Facility

On November 2, 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) announced its intention to issue a permit authorizing the take of up to three golden eagles during the five-year permit term for the 48-turbine Alta East Wind facility in Kern County, California. The announcement was contained in a notice published in the Federal … Continue Reading

Dakota Access Pipeline Controversy May Spur Overhaul of Tribal Consultation for Infrastructure Projects

There has been much controversy in recent weeks surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a 1,172-mile line proposed to carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. Although only 3 percent of the DAPL requires federal approval, much of the pipeline has already been constructed In particular, the DAPL has raised issues regarding the scope … Continue Reading