Andrus v. Sierra Club - 442 U.S. 347 (1979)
U.S. Supreme Court
Andrus v. Sierra Club, 442 U.S. 347 (1979)
Andrus v. Sierra Club
Argued April 18, 1979
Decided June 11, 1979
442 U.S. 347
Section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires environmental impact statements (EIS's) to be included in recommendations or reports of federal agencies on "proposals for legislation and other major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." Contending that § 102(2)(C) requires federal agencies to prepare EIS's to accompany appropriation requests, respondents, three organizations with interests in the preservation of the environment, brought suit in Federal District Court against petitioners, the Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Respondents alleged that proposed curtailments in the budget of the National Wildlife Refuge System would significantly affect the quality of the human environment, and hence should have been accompanied by an EIS prepared both by the Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the Refuge System, and by OMB. The District Court granted summary judgment for respondents and ordered petitioners to prepare EIS's on annual proposals for financing the Refuge System. The District Court's holding was modified by the Court of Appeals, which concluded that, while § 102(2)(C) has no application to a routine appropriation request for continuance of an ongoing program, an EIS is required when an appropriation request accompanies a proposal for taking new action that significantly changes the status quo, or when the request "ushers in a considered programmatic course following a programmatic review."
Held: Section 102(2)(C) does not require federal agencies to prepare EIS's to accompany appropriation requests. Pp. 442 U. S. 355-365.
(a) Appropriation requests, even those which are the result of an agency's "painstaking review" of an ongoing program, are not "proposals for legislation" within the meaning of § 102(2)(C). NEPA makes no distinction between "proposals for legislation" that are the result of "painstaking review," and those that are merely "routine"; and the interpretation of NEPA by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) under its current mandatory regulations which specify that "legislation" does not include appropriation requests, is entitled to
substantial deference even though the regulations reverse CEQ's interpretation under earlier advisory guidelines that were in effect at the time of the Court of Appeals' decision. Moreover, CEQ's current interpretation is consistent with the traditional distinction which Congress has drawn between "legislation" and "appropriation," the rules of both Houses prohibiting "legislation" from being added to an appropriation bill. Pp. 442 U. S. 356-361.
(b) Nor do appropriation requests constitute "proposals for . . . major Federal actions" for purposes of § 102(2)(C). Appropriation requests do not "propose" federal actions at all, but instead fund actions already proposed. Thus, § 102(2)(C) is best interpreted as applying to those recommendations or reports that actually propose programmatic actions, rather than to those which merely suggest how such actions may be funded. Even if changes in agency programs occur because of budgetary decisions, an EIS at the appropriation stage would only be repetitive of the EIS that must accompany any proposed changes in the agency's programs that would significantly affect the quality of the human environment. Pp. 442 U. S. 361-364.
189 U.S.App.D.C. 117, 581 F.2d 895, reversed.
BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.