Andrus v. Sierra Club
442 U.S. 347 (1979)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Andrus v. Sierra Club, 442 U.S. 347 (1979)

Andrus v. Sierra Club

No. 78-625

Argued April 18, 1979

Decided June 11, 1979

442 U.S. 347

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

Syllabus

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

Page 442 U. S. 348

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.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question for decision is whether § 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 83 Stat.

Page 442 U. S. 349

853, 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C), requires federal agencies to prepare environmental impact statements (EIS's) to accompany appropriation requests. We hold that it does not.

I

NEPA sets forth its purposes in bold strokes:

"The purposes of this Act are: To declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation. . . ."

83 Stat. 852, 42 U.S.C. § 4321. [Footnote 1] Congress recognized, however, that these desired goals could

Page 442 U. S. 350

be incorporated into the everyday functioning of the Federal Government only with great difficulty. See S.Rep. No. 91-296, p. 19 (1969). NEPA therefore contains "action-forcing procedures which will help to insure that the policies [of the Act] are implemented." Ibid.See Kleppe v. Sierra Club,427 U. S. 390, 427 U. S. 409 (1976). Section 102(2)(C) of the Act sets out one of these procedures:

"The Congress authorizes and directs that, to the fullest extent possible . . . (2) all agencies of the Federal Government shall --"

"* * * *"

"(C) include in every recommendation or report on proposals for legislation and other major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, a detailed statement by the responsible official on -- "

"(i) the environmental impact of the proposed action,"

"(ii) any adverse environmental effects which cannot be avoided should the proposal be implemented,"

"(iii) alternatives to the proposed action,"

"(iv) the relationship between local short-term uses of man's environment and the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity, and"

"(v) any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources which would be involved in the proposed action should it be implemented."

83 Stat. 853, 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C) (emphasis supplied).

The thrust of § 102(2)(C) is thus that environmental concerns be integrated into the very process of agency decisionmaking. The "detailed statement" it requires is the outward sign that environmental values and consequences have been considered during the planning stage of agency actions. [Footnote 2] If

Page 442 U. S. 351

environmental concerns are not interwoven into the fabric of agency planning, the "action-forcing" characteristics of § 102(2)(C) would be lost.

"In the past, environmental factors have frequently been ignored and omitted from consideration in the early stages of planning. . . . As a result, unless the results of planning are radically revised at the policy level -- and this often means the Congress -- environmental enhancement opportunities may be foregone, and unnecessary degradation incurred."

S.Rep. No 91-296, supra, at 20. For this reason, the regulations of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) require federal agencies to "integrate the NEPA process with other planning at the earliest possible time to insure that planning and decisions reflect environmental values. . . ." 43 Fed.Reg. 55992 (1978) (to be codified at 40 CFR § 1501.2). [Footnote 3]

Page 442 U. S. 352

In 1974; respondents, three organizations with interests in the preservation of the environment, [Footnote 4] brought suit in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that § 102(2)(C) requires federal agencies to prepare EIS's [Footnote 5] to accompany their appropriation requests. Respondents named as defendants the Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and alleged that proposed curtailments in the budget of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), 80 Stat. 927, 16 U.S.C. 668dd, would "cut back significantly the operations, maintenance, and staffing of units within the System." [Footnote 6] Complaint

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