Grand Canyon Trust v. Williams, No. CV–13–08045–PCT–DGC.

CourtU.S. District Court — District of Arizona
Writing for the CourtDAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.
Citation98 F.Supp.3d 1044
PartiesGRAND CANYON TRUST, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Michael WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. CV–13–08045–PCT–DGC.
Decision Date07 April 2015

98 F.Supp.3d 1044

GRAND CANYON TRUST, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
Michael WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.

No. CV–13–08045–PCT–DGC.

United States District Court, D. Arizona.

Signed April 7, 2015.


98 F.Supp.3d 1048

Marc D. Fink, Duluth, MN, Neil Levine, Grand Canyon Trust, Denver, CO, Richard Warren Hughes, Rothstein Donatelli Hughes Dahlstrom Schoenburg, & Bienvenu LLP, Santa Fe, NM, Roger Flynn, Western Mining Action Project, Lyons, CO, for Plaintiffs.

Jared S. Pettinato, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

ORDER

DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Docs. 140, 146, 147. The motions are fully briefed and the Court heard oral argument on March 18, 2015. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' and Defendant–Intervenors' motions for summary judgment will be granted and Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment will be denied.

I. Background.

Plaintiffs include the Havasupai Tribe and various environmental groups: Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club. Defendants are the United States Forest Service; Michael Williams, Supervisor of the Kaibab National Forest; and Intervenors Energy Fuels Resources (USA), Inc. and EFR Arizona Strip, LLC.

This case arises out of the proposed renewal of operations at the Canyon Mine in Northern Arizona. The Canyon Mine is a breccia pipe uranium mine located six

98 F.Supp.3d 1049

miles south of Grand Canyon National Park, in the Kaibab National Forest, and four miles north of Red Butte, a culturally and religiously significant site for the Havasupai and other tribes. Doc. 115 ¶¶ 2, 49.

In October 1984, Energy Fuels Nuclear, Inc. (“EFN”) submitted to the Forest Service a proposed Plan of Operations for the Canyon Mine (the “Plan”). A.R. 193–221. Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), the Forest Service completed an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) to address the potential environmental impacts to the area and considered input from federally recognized Indian tribes. A.R. 461–693. On September 26, 1986, the Forest Service issued a Record of Decision (“ROD”) approving a modified version of the Plan. A.R. 915–29. Several administrative appeals followed (A.R. 3932), and the Deputy Regional Forester and Chief of the Forest Service both affirmed the ROD.

The Havasupai Tribe filed a federal court lawsuit challenging approval of the Canyon Mine. See Havasupai Tribe v. United States, 752 F.Supp. 1471 (D.Ariz.1990). Among other arguments, the tribe claimed that the EIS failed to comply with NEPA.1 Following a thorough analysis of the EIS, the ROD, and the administrative record, the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Forest Service. Id. at 1489–1505. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in August of 1991. See Havasupai Tribe v. United States, 943 F.2d 32 (9th Cir.1991).

Shortly thereafter, EFN began constructing the mine. EFN built access roads, storage buildings, a power line, a perimeter fence, diversion structures, a holding pond, a head frame and hoist, and support buildings. A.R. 10487; Doc. 146–1 at 17; Hangan Declaration, Doc. 53–4, ¶ 4.2 Work on the mine shaft was started, and proceeded to a depth of 50 feet. A.R. 10487. When uranium prices fell in 1992, EFN placed the mine on stand-by status. For the next several years the mine was maintained under the interim management portions of the Plan. A.R. 10314.

In 2010, the Forest Service designated Red Butte and the surrounding area, including the location of the Canyon Mine, as a Traditional Cultural Property (“TCP”), thereby making it eligible to be included in the National Register of Historic Places due to its “ongoing, and historic cultural and religious significance to multiple tribes.” A.R. 10616.

In January 2012, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior (“DOI”), pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (“FLPMA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1714(a), withdrew approximately 633,547 acres of public lands and 360,002 acres of National Forest System lands for up to 20 years from location and entry under the Mining Law of 1872 (the “Withdrawal”). 77 Fed.Reg. 2317–01 (Jan. 17, 2012) ; A.R. 10308–31. The Withdrawal, which included the location of the Canyon Mine, had been proposed by DOI in 2009. 74 Fed.Reg. 35,887 –01 (July 21, 2009). The DOI

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undertook extensive study and preparation of an EIS before finalizing the Withdrawal. The final EIS noted the existence of the Canyon Mine and stated its assumption that the mine would continue operations. A.R. 8657.

In August 2011, Energy Fuels Resources (USA), Inc. (“Energy Fuels”), a successor owner of the Canyon Mine, notified the Forest Service that it intended to resume operations under the Plan approved in 1986. A.R. 8547. In response, the Forest Service decided to complete a valid existing rights determination (“VER Determination”) with respect to the Canyon Mine. The purpose of the VER Determination was to confirm that the owner had valid rights to the uranium mineral deposits. Although Energy Fuels had asserted in its initial letter to the Forest Service that it did not believe any additional government approvals were required before the mine reopened (A.R. 443), Energy Fuels agreed to withhold shaft sinking until the VER Determination was complete (Doc. 123–2 at 2–3). The VER Determination was finished on April 18, 2012, and found that Energy Fuels had valid existing mineral rights at the Canyon Mine. A.R. 10483–528.

The Forest Service also undertook a “Mine Review.” A.R. 10592–637. The review was conducted by a 13–person interdisciplinary team with expertise in minerals and geology, surface and groundwater, air quality, transportation, tribal consultation, heritage resources, vegetation, NEPA, and socioeconomic issues. A.R. 10597. Among other matters, the team evaluated the sufficiency of the Plan and the original EIS and ROD; historical and religious issues related to local tribes, including tribal consultation in connection with the EIS and ROD; sensitive tribal sites, including Red Butte; the effect of resumed operations on the quality of air, surface water, and groundwater; and the effect of resumed mine operations on wildlife and any threatened, endangered, or sensitive species. A.R. 10592–637.

The Mine Review was completed on June 25, 2012, and concluded that operations could resume at the Canyon Mine under the original Plan. The Mine Review made this finding:

[T]he Forest [Service] undertook a review of the 1986 Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision, and associated documents. Resource specialists from the Kaibab National Forest and Southwestern Regional Office reviewed the documents to determine if any modification or amendment of the existing Plan of Operations was required and whether there was any new information or changed circumstances indicating unforeseen significant disturbance of surface resources. It was determined that no amendment or modification of the Plan of Operation was required.... Therefore, [Energy Fuels] will resume operations under the existing Plan of Operations.

A.R. 10594.3

Upon learning that the mine would be reopened, the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office (“AZSHPO”) advised the Forest Service that it should undertake a full consultation under § 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (“NHPA”), 16 U.S.C. § 470f. A.R. 10139. Section 106 requires a federal agency charged with issuing a federal license for an “undertaking” to consult with various interested parties and evaluate the potential

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effects on TCPs, including identification of the affected properties, a determination of the potential adverse effects to the properties, and an identification of methods of mitigation. 36 C.F.R. §§ 800.2 –800.7.

The Mine Review concluded that a full § 106 process was not necessary. A.R. 10593–637. Instead, the Forest Service undertook a reduced consultation process under 36 C.F.R. § 800.13(b)(3). The Forest Service sent letters to tribal leaders as well as the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (“ACHP”), notifying them of renewed operations at the Canyon Mine and offering to meet and discuss potential adverse effects to the environment and areas of religious and cultural significance. A.R. 10690–91. The tribes and the ACHP urged the Forest Service to undertake a full § 106 review, but the Forest Service declined. A two-day consultation meeting was held with the tribes in January 2013.

Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit on March 7, 2013, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701 –706. Doc. 1. Plaintiffs' amended complaint alleges four claims: (1) the Forest Service violated NEPA by not conducting an EIS in connection with the VER Determination; (2) the Forest Service violated the NHPA by failing to complete a full § 106 review prior to approving resumed operations at the Canyon Mine; (3) the Forest Service violated the NHPA by conducting a review under § 800.13(b)(3) ; and (4) the VER Determination failed to consider all relevant cost factors and...

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8 practice notes
  • Grand Canyon Trust v. Provencio, No. CV-13-8045-PCT-DGC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Arizona
    • 22 Mayo 2020
    ...standing because claim four fell outside the Mining Law's "zone of interests." Id. at 13-21; see Grand Canyon Trust v. Williams , 98 F. Supp. 3d 1044 (D. Ariz. 2015).The Ninth Circuit initially affirmed on all grounds. See Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio , 876 F.3d 1242 (9th Cir. 2017). One ye......
  • Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Reservation v. U.S. Corps of Eng'rs, 3:11-CV-03026-RAL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • 29 Septiembre 2016
    ...the failure of the Secretary of State to disapprove a proposed demolition was not an undertaking); Grand Canyon Trust v. Williams, 98 F. Supp. 3d 1044, 1065-66 (D.Page 14 Ariz. 2015) (finding that the Forest Services' determination that a uranium mine had valid existing rights was not a fed......
  • Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio, No. 15-15857
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 12 Diciembre 2017
    ...[Valid Existing Rights] Determination"—was a final agency action subject to review under the APA. See Grand Canyon Tr. v. Williams , 98 F.Supp.3d 1044, 1055–61 (D. Ariz. 2015). Turning to the merits, the district court held (1) that the Mineral Report was not a "major federal action" requir......
  • Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio, No. 15-15754
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 25 Octubre 2018
    ...[Valid Existing Rights] Determination"—was a final agency action subject to review under the APA. See Grand Canyon Tr. v. Williams , 98 F.Supp.3d 1044, 1055–61 (D. Ariz. 2015). Turning to the merits, the district court held (1) that the Mineral Report was not a "major federal action" requir......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Grand Canyon Trust v. Provencio, No. CV-13-8045-PCT-DGC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Arizona
    • 22 Mayo 2020
    ...standing because claim four fell outside the Mining Law's "zone of interests." Id. at 13-21; see Grand Canyon Trust v. Williams , 98 F. Supp. 3d 1044 (D. Ariz. 2015).The Ninth Circuit initially affirmed on all grounds. See Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio , 876 F.3d 1242 (9th Cir. 2017). One ye......
  • Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Reservation v. U.S. Corps of Eng'rs, 3:11-CV-03026-RAL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • 29 Septiembre 2016
    ...the failure of the Secretary of State to disapprove a proposed demolition was not an undertaking); Grand Canyon Trust v. Williams, 98 F. Supp. 3d 1044, 1065-66 (D.Page 14 Ariz. 2015) (finding that the Forest Services' determination that a uranium mine had valid existing rights was not a fed......
  • Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio, No. 15-15857
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 12 Diciembre 2017
    ...[Valid Existing Rights] Determination"—was a final agency action subject to review under the APA. See Grand Canyon Tr. v. Williams , 98 F.Supp.3d 1044, 1055–61 (D. Ariz. 2015). Turning to the merits, the district court held (1) that the Mineral Report was not a "major federal action" requir......
  • Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio, No. 15-15754
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 25 Octubre 2018
    ...[Valid Existing Rights] Determination"—was a final agency action subject to review under the APA. See Grand Canyon Tr. v. Williams , 98 F.Supp.3d 1044, 1055–61 (D. Ariz. 2015). Turning to the merits, the district court held (1) that the Mineral Report was not a "major federal action" requir......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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