Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Assn.,
Annotate this Case
426 U.S. 776 (1976)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Assn., 426 U.S. 776 (1976)
Flint Ridge Development Co. v. Scenic Rivers
Association of Oklahoma
Argued April 27, 1976
Decided June 24, 1976*
426 U.S. 776
The Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (Disclosure Act), which is designed to prevent false and deceptive practices in the interstate sale of unimproved tracts of land by requiring developers to disclose information needed by potential purchasers, requires a developer to register a subdivision by filing with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) a statement of record containing information concerning title of the land, the terms and conditions for disposing of lots, the conditions of the subdivision, including access, noise, safety, sewage, utilities, proximity to municipalities, the nature of the developer's proposed improvements, various other specified data, and such additional matters as the Secretary of HUD may require as being reasonably necessary or appropriate for the protection of purchasers. Such statement of record becomes effective automatically on the 30th day after filing unless the Secretary determines that it is, on its face, incomplete or materially inaccurate, in which case, the effective date is suspended until 30 days after the developer files the information necessary to complete or correct the statement. After the petitioner developer had filed a statement of record with HUD concerning a certain subdivision, but before the statement became effective, respondent environmental organizations requested HUD to prepare an environmental impact statement on the development before allowing the statement of record to go into effect. Upon HUD's refusal to do so, the organizations brought suit against the Secretary and the Administrator of HUD's Office of Interstate Land Sales Registration, seeking a declaratory judgment and an injunction requiring them, prior to registering the developer's statement of record, to conduct an environmental study in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), which requires all federal agencies, "to the fullest
extent possible," to include
"in every recommendation or report on proposals for legislation and other major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment"
an environmental impact statement analyzing the consequences of, and alternatives to, the proposed action. The District Court ruled for the organizations, holding that NEPA's requirements applied to HUD, and ordering it to prepare an environmental impact statement before approving the developer's statement of record. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
Held: NEPA's environmental impact statement requirement is inapplicable to this case. Even if the Secretary's allowing a disclosure statement to become effective constituted "major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment" within the meaning of NEPA so that an environmental impact statement would ordinarily be required, there would be a clear and fundamental conflict of statutory duty, since the Secretary cannot comply with the duty under the Disclosure Act to allow statements of record to go into effect within 30 days of filing, absent inaccurate or incomplete disclosure, and simultaneously prepare impact statements on proposed developments. Pp. 426 U. S. 785-793.
(a) While NEPA's instruction that all federal agencies comply with the impact statement requirement "to the fullest extent possible" is a deliberate command that the duty NEPA imposes upon the agencies to consider environmental factors not be shunted aside in the bureaucratic shuffle, nevertheless NEPA recognizes that, where a clear and unavoidable conflict in statutory authority exists, NEPA must yield. Pp. 426 U. S. 787-788.
(b) The Disclosure Act does not leave the Secretary discretion to suspend the effective date of the proposed statement of record for such time as is necessary to prepare an impact statement, but rather mandates that the statement of record's effective date shall be the 30th day after filing, with the sole exception that the Secretary is empowered to suspend the effective date for inadequate disclosure. Pp. 426 U. S. 788-791.
520 F.2d 240, reversed and remanded.
MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all Members joined except POWELL, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.