Northern Alaska Environmental Center v. Department of the Interior, No. 19-35008 (9th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for federal agencies and officials and ConocoPhillips in an action brought under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) challenging the BLM's 2017 offer and sale of oil and gas leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
The panel first held that plaintiffs' actions are not entirely time barred by the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act (NPRPA). To the extent plaintiffs argued that the 2017 lease sale was a distinct federal action requiring a tiered or stand-alone NEPA analysis, the panel found that their challenge is justiciable. Because the panel can reasonably construe the defined scope of the 2012 environmental impact statement (EIS) to include the 2017 lease sale, the panel deferred to BLM's position that the 2012 EIS was the EIS for the 2017 lease sale. Therefore, the panel found that the BLM met the NEPA requirement for the 2017 lease sale of preparing at least an initial EIS, any challenge to the adequacy of which is now time barred. Furthermore, although plaintiffs alleged significant new information and circumstances known to BLM before the 2017 lease sale, the panel stated that the appropriate rubric for considering these allegations—given the existence of an initial EIS—is supplementation, and plaintiffs have waived any supplementation claim.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on December 22, 2020.