Weinberger v. Catholic Action of Hawaii
Annotate this Case
454 U.S. 139 (1981)
U.S. Supreme Court
Weinberger v. Catholic Action of Hawaii, 454 U.S. 139 (1981)
Weinberger v. Catholic Action of Hawaii/Peace Education Project
Argued October 13, 1981
Decided December 1, 1981
454 U.S. 139
Section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires all federal agencies, "to the fullest extent possible," to include an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in proposals for major federal actions significantly affecting the environment, and also requires the EIS to be made available to the public, subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). With respect to the construction in Hawaii of new ammunition and weapons storage facilities containing magazines capable of storing nuclear weapons, the Navy prepared an Environmental Impact Assessment, which concluded that the new facilities would have no significant environmental impact, and therefore no EIS was prepared. Because the information is classified for national security reasons, the Navy's regulations forbid it either to admit or to deny that nuclear weapons are actually stored at the now-completed facilities. Before construction of the facilities was completed, respondents brought an action in Federal District Court seeking an injunction against the building of the facilities until an EIS had been filed. The District Court held that, in view of, inter alia, the Navy's own regulations, the Navy had complied with NEPA "to the fullest extent possible" within the meaning of 102(2)(C). The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that § 102(2)(C) requires the Navy to prepare and release to the public a "Hypothetical Environmental Impact Statement" with regard to a facility capable of storing nuclear weapons.
Held: The Court of Appeals erred in requiring the Navy to prepare and release to the public a "Hypothetical Environmental Impact Statement." Pp. 454 U. S. 143-147.
(a) In inventing such a statement, the Court of Appeals departed from Congress' express intent manifested by the explicit language in § 102(2)(C) providing that public disclosure of an EIS should be governed by the FOIA. Here, Exemption 1 of the FOIA, which exempts from disclosure classified material dealing with national security, such as information relating to the storage of nuclear weapons, is applicable. Pp. 454 U. S. 143-145.
(b) Moreover, by requiring such a statement, the Court of Appeals required the production of a document that would not exist save for what that court thought to be NEPA's disclosure requirements. If the Navy would not be required by the FOIA to release an EIS were one already prepared, it is obviously not required to prepare a "hypothetical" EIS nowhere mentioned in NEPA. P. 454 U. S. 145.
(c) The Navy is not required to prepare an EIS simply because the facilities in question are "nuclear capable," but rather it is the proposal to store nuclear weapons at those facilities that would trigger the obligation to prepare an EIS. Here, it has not been and cannot be established whether the Navy had made such a proposal. P. 454 U. S. 146.
643 F.2d 569, reversed and remanded.
REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, MARSHALL, POWELL, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 454 U. S. 147.