Hammond v. Norton

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Citation370 F.Supp.2d 226
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A.01-2345(PLF).,CIV.A.01-2345(PLF).
PartiesRobert G. HAMMOND, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Gale A. NORTON, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date13 May 2005
370 F.Supp.2d 226
Robert G. HAMMOND, et al., Plaintiffs,
Gale A. NORTON, et al., Defendants.
No. CIV.A.01-2345(PLF).
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
May 13, 2005.

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Melvin Goldstein, Geraldine Edens, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Lori Caramanian, Washington, DC, for Defendants.


PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, District Judge.


This case, brought under the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA") and other federal environmental statutes, arises from decisions of the Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") and other federal agencies facilitating the construction of a refined petroleum products pipeline from Bloomfield, New Mexico to Salt Lake City, Utah. Comprising 220 miles of natural gas pipeline proposed to be converted to petroleum products use and 260 miles of newly constructed pipeline, the pipeline traverses primarily private lands but also crosses the Manti-La Sal and Uinta National Forests. Defendant-Intervenor, the Williams Pipe Line Company ("Williams"), a common carrier of petroleum products, seeks by construction of this pipeline to provide access to the potentially lucrative petroleum products market in Salt Lake City.

Primarily at issue in this case is the relationship between the proposed Williams pipeline and another proposed pipeline, set to run from Odessa, Texas to Bloomfield, New Mexico. The proponent of that project, Equilon Pipeline LLC ("Equilon"), formerly was partnered with Williams in a joint venture to construct a single pipeline encompassing both of the proposed segments and running all the

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way from West Texas to Salt Lake City. The full pipeline would connect Salt Lake City to the national petroleum products grid, including high-capacity refineries in West Texas and shipping terminals on the Texas Gulf Coast.

When BLM, the agency primarily responsible for reviewing applications for rights-of-way for utility corridors across federal lands, made it clear to Equilon and Williams that, for purposes of NEPA environmental review, BLM would consider the entire proposed Odessa to Salt Lake City pipeline as a single project, rather than two separate endeavors, Williams and Equilon terminated the joint venture and applied separately for rights-of-way to construct their respective pipelines across federal lands. BLM ultimately granted Williams' application for a right-of-way after preparing a final environmental impact statement ("FEIS") that did not address the environmental impacts of the proposed Equilon pipeline.

Plaintiffs in this case are Sinclair Oil, a petroleum products company with a current presence in the Salt Lake City market; several environmental groups concerned with pipeline safety;1 and individuals owning land on or near the proposed Williams pipeline route. The plaintiffs raise a host of claims, foremost among which is the assertion that BLM improperly limited the scope of the Williams FEIS to exclude the Equilon pipeline, allowing the impact of the Equilon project to be considered in a separate environmental review process and preventing the full environmental impacts of the combined projects from being considered adequately in the ROW decision-making process. Plaintiffs also assert other defects in the FEIS and claim that BLM was required by law to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement ("SEIS") based on information that came to light after the issuance of the FEIS. Plaintiffs raise additional claims under the Endangered Species Act, the Mineral Leasing Act, and the National Forest Management Act.

Before the Court are two sets of cross-motions for partial summary judgment and defendant-intervenor Williams Pipe Line Company's motion to dismiss Count 13 of the amended complaint. As provided in this Court's Order of March 31, 2005, the Court granted summary judgment for plaintiffs on Count 1 of their amended complaint, which alleges that BLM improperly segmented its environmental analysis of the Williams project, and remanded the matter to BLM for the preparation of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement addressing only the issue of whether the Williams and Equilon pipeline projects are "connected actions" under 40 C.F.R. § 1508.25(a)(1). The Court granted summary judgment for defendants on all other counts. This Opinion explains the reasoning underlying the Court's Order of March 31, 2005.

A. History of the Williams, Equilon, and Aspen Projects

This case arises from defendant-intervenor Williams Pipe Line Company's effort to construct a petroleum products pipeline providing access to the Salt Lake City, Utah petroleum products market. Salt Lake City historically has been isolated from the national petroleum products grid. At the time the Williams project was initiated, nearly all the refined petroleum products in the state of Utah were supplied

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by five small in-state refineries and one Wyoming refinery owned by plaintiff Sinclair Oil. As a result, prices for gasoline and other petroleum products in Utah are considerably higher than they are in most parts of the country connected to the national grid. Williams asserts that if the Utah market were connected to the massive refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, competition would increase and prices would drop considerably.

Williams proposes to build a petroleum products pipeline connecting the Salt Lake City area with Bloomfield, New Mexico, a town near the "Four Corners" area (where Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado meet), which also is not currently connected to the national petroleum products grid. Two hundred twenty miles of the line would be converted from an existing natural gas pipeline extending from Bloomfield to Crescent Junction, Utah. The 260-mile section from Crescent Junction to Salt Lake City, however, would consist of newly constructed pipe, 96.95 miles of which would traverse federal lands, including the Manti-La Sal and Uinta National Forests. See U.S. Department of the Interior, Record of Decision for the Williams Petroleum Products Pipeline Project (Oct. 12, 2001) ("Oct.2001 ROD") at 1, A.R. vol. 6 at 123.

The Mineral Leasing Act, 30 U.S.C. §§ 181 et seq., requires Williams to obtain a right-of-way ("ROW") from the Bureau of Land Management, a subdivision of the Department of the Interior ("DOI"), before it can construct, operate, or maintain a pipeline on federal lands.2 Williams filed an initial ROW application with the Utah office of BLM in 1998. See Oct. 2001 ROD at 1, A.R. vol. 6 at 128. Although that application pertained only to the segment of the pipeline running from Thompson Springs, Utah to the Salt Lake City area, the application stated that this pipeline segment was part of a larger project to build a pipeline extending all the way from southeast Texas to "the Wasatch Front area of Utah," in the vicinity of Salt Lake City. See Supplement to Application for Transportation and Utility Systems and Facilities on Federal Lands (Nov. 6, 1998) ("Nov.1998 Williams Application") at 1, A.R. vol. 1 at 324. A separate application for the New Mexico segment of the project was to be filed with BLM in Farmington, New Mexico. See id.

In February 1999, Williams and another company, Equilon Pipeline LLC, formed a joint venture, Aspen Products Pipeline LLC ("Aspen"), to construct a petroleum products pipeline from Odessa, Texas to Salt Lake City. See Defendant-Intervenors' Statement of Points and Authorities in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Strike ("Def-Intervs'. Opp. 1st Mot. Summ. J.") at 3-4. A March 15, 1999 amendment to the Williams ROW application redesignated Aspen as the proponent of the project and extended the northern terminus of the line slightly. See id. at 4; Letter from John R. Thomas to Mark Mackiewicz (March 15, 1999), Re: Williams Pipe Line Company Revised Right-of-Way Application, A.R. vol. 1 at 235. Also under the aegis of Aspen, Equilon filed a ROW application with the New Mexico office of BLM for the southern

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segment of the pipeline, running from Odessa, Texas, to Bloomfield.3

The National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 et seq., provides that a federal agency must prepare an environmental impact statement for "proposals for... major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C); see also 40 C.F.R. § 1502.3. NEPA and its implementing regulations require the agency preparing an EIS to consider carefully the scope of its analysis, defined by Council on Environmental Quality ("CEQ") regulations as "the range of actions, alternatives, and impacts to be considered in an environmental impact statement." 40 C.F.R. § 1508.25.4 Actions that are "connected" or "cumulative" in impact should be discussed in the same environmental impact statement; actions that are "similar" may be analyzed in the same statement. 40 C.F.R. § 1508.25(a).

After meeting with Williams and Equilon, and over the companies' strenuous objections, BLM decided that rather than prepare separate EIS's for the northern and southern segments of the pipeline, BLM would for NEPA purposes examine the entire Aspen pipeline from Odessa to Salt Lake City as a single project. See Letter from Sally Wisely, Director, Utah Office of BLM, to Tim Powell, Williams Energy Services (Feb. 1, 2000) ("Feb.2000 Wisely Letter"), A.R. vol. 8 at 449. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Council on Environmental Quality, Sinclair Oil (a plaintiff here), and other interested parties also had submitted comments urging BLM to examine the entire Aspen project in a single EIS. See Statement of Uncontested Facts in Support of Motion of Plaintiffs and Plaintiff-Intervenors for Partial Summary Judgment ("Pls'.Facts") ¶¶ 8-13...

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