520 U.S. 154 (1997), 95-813, Bennett v. Spear
|Docket Nº:||Case No. 95-813|
|Citation:||520 U.S. 154, 117 S.Ct. 1154, 137 L.Ed.2d 281, 65 U.S.L.W. 4201|
|Party Name:||BENNETT et al. v. SPEAR et al.|
|Case Date:||March 19, 1997|
|Court:||United States Supreme Court|
Argued November 13, 1996
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) requires the Secretary of the Interior to specify animal species that are "threatened" or "endangered" and designate their "critical habitat," 16 U.S.C. § 1533, and requires federal agencies to ensure that any action they authorize, fund, or carry out is not likely to jeopardize a listed species or adversely modify its critical habitat, § 1536 (a)(2). If an agency determines that a proposed action may adversely affect such a species, it must formally consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service, which must provide it with a written statement (the Biological Opinion) explaining how the proposed action will affect the species or its habitat. § 1536 (b)(3)(A). If the Service concludes that such action will result in jeopardy or adverse habitat modification, § 1536 (a)(2), the Biological Opinion must outline any "reasonable and prudent alternatives" that the Service believes will avoid that consequence, § 1536 (b)(3)(A). If the Biological Opinion concludes that no jeopardy or adverse habitat modification will result, or if it offers reasonable and prudent alternatives, the Service must issue a written statement (known as the Incidental Take Statement) specifying the terms and conditions under which an agency may take the species. § 1536 (b)(4). After the Bureau of Reclamation notified the Service that the operation of the Klamath Irrigation Project might affect two endangered species of fish, the Service issued a Biological Opinion, concluding that the proposed long-term operation of the project was likely to jeopardize the species and identifying as a reasonable and prudent alternative the maintenance of minimum water levels on certain reservoirs. The Bureau notified the Service that it would operate the project in compliance with the Biological Opinion. Petitioners, irrigation districts receiving project water and operators of ranches in those districts, filed this action against respondents, the Service's director and regional directors and the Secretary, claiming that the jeopardy determination and imposition of minimum water levels violated § 1536, and constituted an implicit critical habitat determination for the species in violation of § 1533 (b) (2)'s requirement that the designation's economic impact be considered. They also claimed that the actions violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which prohibits agency actions that are arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with
law. 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). The District Court dismissed the complaint, concluding that petitioners lacked standing because they asserted "recreational, aesthetic, and commercial interests" that did not fall within the zone of interests sought to be protected by the ESA. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the "zone of interests" test which requires that a plaintiff's grievance arguably fall within the zone of interests protected or regulated by the statutory provision or constitutional guarantee invoked in the suitlimits the class of persons who may obtain judicial review not only under the APA, but also under the ESA's citizen-suit provision, 16 U.S.C. § 1540 (g); and that only plaintiffs alleging an interest in the preservation of endangered species fall within the zone of interests protected by the ESA.
Petitioners have standing to seek judicial review of the Biological Opinion. Pp. 161-179.
(a) The Court of Appeals erred in concluding that petitioners lacked standing under the zone-of-interests test to bring their claims under the ESA's citizen-suit provision. The test is a prudential standing requirement of general application, see, e. g., Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751, that applies unless expressly negated by Congress. By providing that "any person may commence a civil suit," § 1540 (g)(1) negates the test. The quoted phrase is an authorization of remarkable breadth when compared with the language Congress ordinarily uses. The Court's readiness to take the term "any person" at face value is greatly augmented by the interrelated considerations that the legislation's overall subject matter is the environment and that § 1540 (g)'s obvious purpose is to encourage enforcement by so-called "private attorneys general." See Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 409 U.S. 205, 210-211. The "any person" formulation applies to all § 1540 (g) causes of action, including actions against the Secretary asserting over enforcement of § 1533; there is no textual basis for saying that the formulation's expansion of standing requirements applies to environmentalists alone. Pp. 161-166.
(b) Three alternative grounds advanced by the Government(1) that petitioners fail to meet Article III standing requirements; (2) that § 1540 (g) does not authorize judicial review of the types of claims petitioners advanced; and (3) that judicial review is unavailable under the APAdo not support affirmance. Petitioners' complaint alleges an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to the Biological Opinion and redressable by a favorable judicial ruling and, thus, meets Article III standing requirements at this stage of the litigation. Their § 1533 claim is clearly reviewable under § 1540 (g)(1)(C), which authorizes suit against the Secretary for an alleged failure to perform any nondiscretionary act or duty
under § 1533. Their § 1536 claims are obviously not reviewable under subsection (C), however. Nor are they reviewable under subsection(A), which authorizes injunctive actions against any person "who is alleged to be in violation" of the ESA or its regulations. Viewed in the context of the entire statute, subsection (A)'s reference to any ESA "violation" cannot be interpreted to include the Secretary's maladministration of the Act. The § 1536 claims are nonetheless reviewable under the APA. The ESA does not preclude such review, and the claim that petitioners will suffer economic harm because of an erroneous jeopardy determination is plainly within the zone of interests protected by § 1536, the statutory provision whose violation forms the basis for the complaint, see Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871. In addition, the Biological Opinion constitutes final agency action for APA purposes. It marks the consummation of the agency's decision making process, Chicago & Southern Air Lines, Inc. v. Waterman S. S. Corp., 333 U.S. 103, 113. It is also an action from which "legal consequences will flow," Port of Boston Marine Terminal Assn. v. Rederiaktiebolaget Transatlantic, 400 U.S. 62, 71, because the Biological Opinion and accompanying Incidental Take Statement alter the legal regime to which the Bureau is subject, authorizing it to take the endangered species if (but only if) it complies with the prescribed conditions. Franklin v. Massachusetts, 505 U.S. 788, and Dalton v. Specter, 511 U.S. 462, distinguished. Pp. 166-179.
63 F.3d 915, reversed and remanded.
Gregory K. Wilkinson argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs was William F. Schroeder.
Deputy Solicitor General Kneedler argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were Acting Solicitor General Dellinger, Assistant Attorney General Schiffer, Malcolm L. Stewart, Anne S. Almy, Robert L. Klarquist, and Evelyn S. Ying. [*]
Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a challenge to a biological opinion issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service in accordance with the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), 87 Stat. 884, as amended, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq., concerning the operation of the Kla-math Irrigation Project by the Bureau of Reclamation, and the project's impact on two varieties of endangered fish. The question for decision is whether the petitioners, who have competing economic and other interests in Klamath Project water, have standing to seek judicial review of the biological opinion under the citizen-suit provision of the ESA, § 1540 (g)(1), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 80 Stat. 392, as amended, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.
The ESA requires the Secretary of the Interior to promulgate regulations listing those species of animals that are "threatened" or "endangered" under specified criteria, and
to designate their "critical habitat." 16 U.S.C. § 1533. The ESA further requires each federal agency to "insure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by such agency. . . is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of habitat of such species which is determined by the Secretary . . . to be critical." § 1536 (a)(2). If an agency determines that action it proposes to take may adversely affect a listed species, it must engage in formal consultation with the Fish and Wild-life Service, as delegate of the Secretary, ibid.; 50 CFR § 402.14 (1995), after which the Service must provide the agency with a written statement (the Biological Opinion) explaining how the proposed action will affect the species or its habitat, 16 U.S.C. § 1536 (b)(3)(A). If the Service concludes that the proposed action will "jeopardize the continued existence of any [listed] species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of [critical habitat]," § 1536 (a)(2), the Biological Opinion must outline any "reasonable and prudent alternatives" that the Service believes will avoid that consequence, § 1536 (b)(3)(A). Additionally, if the Biological Opinion concludes that the agency action will not result in jeopardy or...
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