Klein v. U.S. Dep't of Energy, No. 13-1165 (6th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to fund alternative energy projects called “biorefinery demonstration projects,” 42 U.S.C. 16232(d), to develop ways to convert trees, crops and agricultural waste into energy. Frontier sought a grant to construct a plant in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that would use about 770 tons of wood chips per day to produce 20 million gallons of ethanol per year. As required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), DOE prepared a draft environmental assessment. After receiving input, DOE issued a final environmental assessment that proposed changes, including use of a biomass boiler instead of natural gas boilers to generate power for the plant. DOE issued a finding of “no significant impact” and awarded $100 million toward construction of the plant, about 34% of its total cost. Opponents sued, alleging violation of the NEPA. The district court held that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that the claims also failed on the merits. The Sixth Circuit reversed with respect to standing, holding that the opponents did show injury subject to redress, but affirmed on the merits, stating that DOE completed a thorough environmental assessment and reasonably described the environmental impacts identified as not significant.