Flint Ridge Development Company v. Scenic Rivers Association of Oklahoma Hills v. Scenic Rivers Association of Oklahoma, Nos. 75-510

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMARSHALL
Citation96 S.Ct. 2430,426 U.S. 776,49 L.Ed.2d 205
Decision Date24 June 1976
Docket NumberNos. 75-510,75-545
PartiesFLINT RIDGE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, Petitioner, v. The SCENIC RIVERS ASSOCIATION OF OKLAHOMA et al. Carla A. HILLS, etc., et al., Petitioners, v. The SCENIC RIVERS ASSOCIATION OF OKLAHOMA et al

426 U.S. 776
96 S.Ct. 2430
49 L.Ed.2d 205
FLINT RIDGE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, Petitioner,

v.

The SCENIC RIVERS ASSOCIATION OF OKLAHOMA et al. Carla A. HILLS, etc., et al., Petitioners, v. The SCENIC RIVERS ASSOCIATION OF OKLAHOMA et al.

Nos. 75-510, 75-545.
Argued April 27, 1976.
Decided June 24, 1976.
Rehearings Denied Oct. 4, 1976.

See 429 U.S. 875, 97 S.Ct. 198.

Syllabus

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 full-

Page 777

est 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. 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. 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. 788-791.

520 F.2d 240, reversed and remanded.

Howard E. Shapiro, Washington, D. C., for petitioners Carla A. Hills, et al. F. Paul Thieman, Jr., Tulsa, Okl., for petitioner Flint Ridge Development Co.

Page 778

Andr T. Dalton, Jr., Tulsa, Okl., for respondents.

Mr. Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

Today we must decide whether the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to prepare an environmental impact statement before it may allow a disclosure statement filed with it by a private real estate developer pursuant to the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (Disclosure Act) to become effective.

I

The Disclosure Act, 82 Stat. 590, as amended 15 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq., is designed to prevent false and deceptive practices in the sale of unimproved tracts of land by requiring developers to disclose information needed by potential buyers. The Act is based on the full disclosure provisions and philosophy of the Securities Act of 1933, 48 Stat. 74, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 77a et seq., which it resembles in many respects. Section 1404(a)(1) of the Disclosure Act makes it unlawful for the devel-

Page 779

oper of a covered subdivision "to make use of any means or instruments of transportation or communication in ierstate commerce, or of the mails . . . to sell or lease any lot in any subdivision unless a statement of record with respect to such lot is in effect . . . and a printed property report . . . is furnished to the purchaser in advance of the signing of any contract or agreement for sale or lease by the purchaser." 15 U.S.C. § 1703(a)(1).

The statement of record and the property report, which is a condensed version of the statement of record, are prepared by the developer. They contain information concerning the 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, and 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." § 1406(12) of the Disclosure Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1705.1 By regulation, the

Page 780

property report is a required part of the statement of record.2 24 CFR §§ 1710.20(a), (e), 1710.110 (1975).

A developer registers a subdivision by filing the state-

Page 781

ment of record, including the property report, with HUD. The statement, which is effective only with respect to the lots specified therein, becomes effective automatically on the 30th day after filing, or on such earlier date as the Secretary may determine. §§ 1405, 1407(a) of the Disclosure Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1704, 1706(a). If the Secretary determines that the statement of record is on its face incomplete or inaccurate in any material respect, and so notifies the developer within 30 days of filing, the effective date is suspended until 30 days after the developer files the information necessary to complete or correct the report. § 1407(b) of the Disclosure Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1706(b).3 If the statement is on its face complete and accurate, however, it must be permitted to go into effect. The Secretary has no power to evaluate the substance of the developer's proposal; and the Disclosure Act expressly provides: "The fact that a statement of record with respect to a subdivision has been filed or is in effect shall not be deemed a finding by the Secretary that the statement of record is true and accurate on its face, or be held to mean the Secretary has in any way

Page 782

passed upon the merits of, or given approval to, such subdivision." § 1417 of the Disclosure Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1716. Moreover, the Act prohibits any person from advertising or representing that the Secretary approves or recommends the subdivision or the sale or lease of lots therein. §§ 1408(b), 1417 of the Disclosure Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1707(b), 1716. 4

Petitioner Flint Ridge Development Co. (Flint Ridge) is a private joint venture organized to develop and sell lots in a subdivision located in northeastern Oklahoma adjacent to the Illinois River. In February 1974, the company filed with HUD a statement of record and property report relating to "Flint Ridge No. 1," which consists of approximately 1,000 residential lots on 2,200 acres of company land. The Secretary found the statement to be inaccurate and incomplete on its face, and suspended its effective date. Flint Ridge subsequently filed corrections and the amended statement became effective on May 2, 1974. Sales of lots commenced immediately thereafter.

Respondents Scenic Rivers Association of Oklahoma and Illinois River Conservation Council are nonprofit Oklahoma corporations organized for the purpose of protecting the Illinois River, a state-designated "scenic" river, and its undeveloped environs, which some members use for recreation. After Flint Ridge filed its statement of record, but before it became effective, respondents petitioned HUD to prepare an environmental impact statement on the development prior to allowing the statement of record to go into effect. HUD rejected the re-

Page 783

quest and respondents brought suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma against the Secretary of HUD and the Administrator of HUD's Office of Interstate Land Sales Registration.5 Respondents requested a declaratory judgment and an injunction requiring that...

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186 practice notes
  • Western Land Exchange Proj. v. U.S. Bureau of Land, No. CVN02-0343-DWH(RAM).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • March 19, 2004
    ...possible" unless "a clear and unavoidable conflict in statutory authority exists." Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Ass'n of Okla., 426 U.S. 776, 787-88, 96 S.Ct. 2430, 49 L.Ed.2d 205 (1976) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 4332). Such an unavoidable conflict might arise where existing law applica......
  • San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Auth. v. Jewell, Nos. 11–15871
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • March 13, 2014
    ...an irreconcilable and fundamental conflict” with the substantive statute at issue. Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Ass'n of Okla., 426 U.S. 776, 788, 96 S.Ct. 2430, 49 L.Ed.2d 205 (1976). Second, we have identified a limited number of instances where a substantive statute has “displac......
  • Ynovus Bank v. Karp, Civil Nos. 1:10cv172
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • August 15, 2012
    ...of land by requiring developers to disclose information needed by potential buyers.” Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Ass'n of Okla., 426 U.S. 776, 778, 96 S.Ct. 2430, 2433, 49 L.Ed.2d 205 (1976). “The Act also requires sellers to inform buyers, prior to purchase, of facts which would ......
  • Westlands Water Dist. v. US Dept. of Interior, No. CV-F-93-5327 OWW SSH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • March 3, 1994
    ...254 (1973), "NEPA was not intended to repeal by implication any other statute." Flint Ridge Development Co. v. Scenic Rivers Assoc., 426 U.S. 776, 787-88, 96 S.Ct. 2430, 2437-38, 49 L.Ed.2d 205 (1976). Where there is an "irreconcilable and fundamental" statutory conflict, no environmental i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
182 cases
  • Western Land Exchange Proj. v. U.S. Bureau of Land, No. CVN02-0343-DWH(RAM).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • March 19, 2004
    ...possible" unless "a clear and unavoidable conflict in statutory authority exists." Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Ass'n of Okla., 426 U.S. 776, 787-88, 96 S.Ct. 2430, 49 L.Ed.2d 205 (1976) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 4332). Such an unavoidable conflict might arise where existing law applica......
  • San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Auth. v. Jewell, Nos. 11–15871
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • March 13, 2014
    ...an irreconcilable and fundamental conflict” with the substantive statute at issue. Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Ass'n of Okla., 426 U.S. 776, 788, 96 S.Ct. 2430, 49 L.Ed.2d 205 (1976). Second, we have identified a limited number of instances where a substantive statute has “displac......
  • Ynovus Bank v. Karp, Civil Nos. 1:10cv172
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Western District of North Carolina
    • August 15, 2012
    ...of land by requiring developers to disclose information needed by potential buyers.” Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Ass'n of Okla., 426 U.S. 776, 778, 96 S.Ct. 2430, 2433, 49 L.Ed.2d 205 (1976). “The Act also requires sellers to inform buyers, prior to purchase, of facts which would ......
  • Westlands Water Dist. v. US Dept. of Interior, No. CV-F-93-5327 OWW SSH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • March 3, 1994
    ...254 (1973), "NEPA was not intended to repeal by implication any other statute." Flint Ridge Development Co. v. Scenic Rivers Assoc., 426 U.S. 776, 787-88, 96 S.Ct. 2430, 2437-38, 49 L.Ed.2d 205 (1976). Where there is an "irreconcilable and fundamental" statutory conflict, no environmental i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • NEPA's Trajectory: Our Waning Environmental Charter From Nixon to Trump?
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter Nbr. 50-5, May 2020
    • May 1, 2020
    ...and accompanying text (noting recent cases and CEQ clarifying proposal). 43. E.g ., Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Ass’n of Okla., 426 U.S. 776, 6 ELR 20528 (1976). See generally Kyle Robisch, he NEPA Implied Exemption Doctrine: How a Novel and Creeping Common Law Exemption hreatens ......
  • The Maryland Environmental Policy Act: Resurrecting a Tool for Environmental Protection
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter Nbr. 45-1, January 2015
    • January 1, 2015
    ...Corp., 347 A.2d 826, 834 (Md. 1975) (internal citations omitted). 36. See e.g. , Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Ass’n of Oklahoma, 426 U.S. 776, 6 ELR 20528 (1976). 37. See e.g. , Environmental Def. Fund v. Mathews 410 F. Supp. 336, 6 ELR 20369 (D.D.C. 1976). 38. See e.g. , Natural R......
  • Administering the National Environmental Policy Act
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter Nbr. 45-4, April 2015
    • April 1, 2015
    ...Despite the urgings of the Solicitor General to the contrary, the Supreme Court in Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Ass’n of Okla. , 426 U.S. 776, 6 ELR 20528 (1976), ignored an early invitation to hold that action agencies whose enabling statutes make no mention of environmental facto......

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