961 F.2d 886 (9th Cir. 1992), 91-35296, Northern Alaska Environmental Center v. Lujan

Docket Nº:91-35296.
Citation:961 F.2d 886
Party Name:NORTHERN ALASKA ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER; Sierra Club, Inc.; Denali Citizens Council, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Manuel LUJAN, Jr., et al., Defendants-Appellees, and Alaska Miners Association, Inc., Defendant-Intervenor-Appellee, and Joseph E. Vogler; Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc., Defendants-Intervenors.
Case Date:April 14, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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961 F.2d 886 (9th Cir. 1992)

NORTHERN ALASKA ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER; Sierra Club, Inc.;

Denali Citizens Council, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

Manuel LUJAN, Jr., et al., Defendants-Appellees,

and

Alaska Miners Association, Inc., Defendant-Intervenor-Appellee,

and

Joseph E. Vogler; Resource Development Council for Alaska,

Inc., Defendants-Intervenors.

No. 91-35296.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

April 14, 1992

Argued and Submitted March 5, 1992.

Robert B. Briggs, Marilyn J. Twitchell, Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc., Juneau, Alaska, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Barry M. Hartman, Acting Asst. Atty. Gen., Dean K. Dunsmore, Dirk D. Snel, Martin W. Matzen, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington D.C., Dennis Hopewell, Deputy Regional Sol., Dept. of Interior, Anchorage, Alaska, for defendants-appellees.

Ronald A. Zumbrun, Robin L. Rivett, Pacific Legal Foundation, Sacramento, Cal., James S. Burling, Pacific Legal Foundation, Anchorage, Alaska, for defendants-intervenors-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Alaska.

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Before: WRIGHT and ALARCON, Circuit Judges, and DAVIES [*], District Judge.

ALARCON, Circuit Judge:

Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Denali Citizens Council, and the Sierra Club, Alaska Chapter (collectively, the "Sierra Club") appeal from the order that dissolved the injunction issued by the district court in 1988. The federal defendants (collectively, the "Park Service") were ordered in 1988 to prepare environmental impact statements ("EISs") that studied the cumulative environmental effects of mining before approving any further mining in three national parks in Alaska. The Sierra Club alleges that the EISs prepared in response to the injunction do not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 et seq. ("NEPA"). We affirm because we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that the EISs concerning the impact of any possible future mining activity in the parks are adequate under the rule of reason because a further study of the effect on the environment will occur prior to the granting of any mining permit.

I.

In 1985 the Sierra Club filed suit seeking an injunction to halt the issuance of mining permits without an environmental impact study. The Sierra Club alleged that the Park Service was issuing temporary permits that authorized mining operations and access to persons who had acquired patented and unpatented mining claims in Denali National Park and Preserve ("Denali"), Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve ("Wrangell"), and Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve ("Yukon") without complying with the requirements of NEPA and the National Park Service regulations implementing the Mining in the Parks Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1901-12.

On July 24, 1985, the district court issued a preliminary injunction barring the Park Service from approving mining operations until an EIS was prepared for each park that evaluated the cumulative effect of further mining operations. The court held that the Park Service had violated NEPA since 1979 by issuing temporary approvals of mining operations without conducting EISs or environmental assessments ("EAs"). It concluded that there were "substantial questions" regarding whether further mining operations in the national parks would have significant cumulative environmental effects.

Intervenor-defendants Alaska Miners Association and the Resource Development Council for Alaska appealed, challenging the validity of the preliminary injunction. Northern Alaska Environmental Center v. Hodel, 803 F.2d 466 (9th Cir.1986). We affirmed after the Park Service conceded that it had violated NEPA and represented that it would comply with the district court's injunction. Id. at 469.

The district court issued a permanent injunction in this matter on March 7, 1988. It enjoined the Park Service "from approving or permitting any further mining operations [in the three parks] until adequate environmental impact statements [were] prepared that study the cumulative environmental effects of mining in those parks." The district court also ordered that

[p]rior to completion of the respective environmental impact statements, the federal defendants or any party to this action may upon a showing that a mining operation in fact does not contribute to any cumulative environmental impact on a park move to modify this injunction to exclude that operation from the injunction. Alternatively, a mine operator not already a party to this action may move for limited intervention and similarly request relief from this injunction.

The court retained jurisdiction "to enforce, modify or dissolve the ... injunctions contained in th[e] final judgment."

In May 1990, the Park Service made public an EIS for each park. Each EIS

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presented four alternatives for evaluating and dealing with the cumulative environmental effects of any future mining operations. For purposes of analysis, each EIS developed a hypothetical "mining development scenario"...

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