454 U.S. 139 (1981), 81-1377, Weinberger v. Catholic Action of Hawaii/Peace Education Project

Docket Nº:No. 81-1377
Citation:454 U.S. 139, 102 S.Ct. 197, 70 L.Ed.2d 298
Party Name:Weinberger v. Catholic Action of Hawaii/Peace Education Project
Case Date:December 01, 1981
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 139

454 U.S. 139 (1981)

102 S.Ct. 197, 70 L.Ed.2d 298

Weinberger

v.

Catholic Action of Hawaii/Peace Education Project

No. 81-1377

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 1, 1981

Argued October 13, 1981

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

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 [102 S.Ct. 200] 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. 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. 143-145.

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(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. 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. 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. 147.

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that § 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 83 Stat. 853, 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C), requires the Navy to prepare and release to the public a "Hypothetical Environmental Impact Statement" with regard to the operation

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of a facility capable of storing nuclear weapons. Catholic Action of Hawaii/Peace Education Project v. Brown, 643 F.2d 569, 572 (1980). Because we conclude that the "Hypothetical Environmental Impact Statement" is a creature of judicial cloth, not legislative cloth, and that it is not mandated by any of the statutory or regulatory provisions upon which the Court of Appeals relied, we reverse its decision.

The facts relevant to our decision are not seriously controverted. Pursuant to a decision by the Navy to transfer ammunition and weapons stored at various locations on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, to the West Loch branch of the Lualualei Naval Magazine, the Navy prepared an Environmental Impact Assessment1 (EIA) concerning how the plan would affect the environment. The assessment concluded that the necessary construction of 48 earth-covered magazines and associated structures would have no significant environmental impact, and therefore no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was prepared at the construction stage. Construction contracts were let in March, 1977, and in April, 1978. Construction of the West Loch facilities has been completed, and the magazines are now in use. It is stipulated that the magazines are capable of storing nuclear weapons. 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 West Loch.2

[102 S.Ct. 201] In 1978, the Navy prepared a Candidate Environmental Impact Statement (CEIS). This CEIS deals generally with the environmental hazards associated with the storage, handling,

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and transportation of nuclear weapons, but does not refer to any specific site or storage facility. It concludes that no significant hazards to the environment are present.

In March, 1978, respondents brought this action seeking an injunction against the building of the new facilities at West Loch until an EIS had been filed. Their principal complaint was that the Navy's EIA had ignored the enhanced risk of a nuclear accident resulting from West Loch's proximity to three nearby air facilities, the effects of such an accident on the population and environment of Hawaii, and the effects of radiation from the storage of nuclear weapons in a populated area. The United States District Court for the District of Hawaii concluded that the "construction and use of the storage facilities at...

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