League of Conservation Voters v. Trump, Case No. 3:17-cv-00101-SLG

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Alaska
Writing for the CourtSharon L. Gleason, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Citation363 F.Supp.3d 1013
Parties LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Donald J. TRUMP, et al., Defendants, and American Petroleum Institute and State of Alaska, Intervenor-Defendants.
Decision Date29 March 2019
Docket NumberCase No. 3:17-cv-00101-SLG

363 F.Supp.3d 1013

LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Donald J. TRUMP, et al., Defendants,
and
American Petroleum Institute and State of Alaska, Intervenor-Defendants.

Case No. 3:17-cv-00101-SLG

United States District Court, D. Alaska.

Signed March 29, 2019


363 F.Supp.3d 1015

Eric P. Jorgensen, Earthjustice, Juneau, AK, Erik Clifford Grafe, Earthjustice, Anchorage, AK, Jacqueline Miya Iwata, Pro Hac Vice, Washington, DC, Nancy S. Marks, Pro Hac Vice, New York, NY, Nathaniel S.W. Lawrence, Pro Hac Vice, Olympia, WA, for Plaintiffs.

Eric Grant, Sarah Dale Himmelhoch, U.S. Department of Justice/ENRD/EES, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

Bradley Keith Ervin, Steven Joseph Rosenbaum, Covington & Burling LLP, Washington, DC, James D. Linxwiler, Christina A. Rankin, Guess & Rudd P.C., Bradley Edward Meyen, State of Alaska, Office of the Attorney General, Jennifer Ellen Douglas, Alaska Department of Law, Anchorage, AK, for Intervenor Defendants.

ORDER RE MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Sharon L. Gleason, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Before the Court at Docket 50 is Plaintiffs Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, Inc., League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society's ("Plaintiffs") motion for summary judgment. Defendants Donald J. Trump, Ryan Zinke—later replaced

363 F.Supp.3d 1016

by David Bernhardt1 —and Wilbur Ross ("Federal Defendants") opposed and moved for summary judgment at Docket 55. Intervenor-defendant American Petroleum Institute ("API") opposed Plaintiffs' motion and cross-moved for summary judgment at Docket 58. Intervenor-defendant State of Alaska ("Alaska") opposed Plaintiffs' motion and moved for summary judgment at Docket 60. Plaintiffs replied in support of their motion at Docket 62. Federal Defendants replied in support of their motion at Docket 63. API replied in support of its motion at Docket 65. Alaska replied in support of its motion at Docket 67.2 Oral argument was held on November 9, 2018 in Anchorage, Alaska.3

BACKGROUND

In 1953, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act ("OCSLA" or "the Act") was enacted into law.4 When enacted, OCSLA had two stated purposes.5 The first purpose was "[t]o provide for the jurisdiction of the United States over" OCS lands.6 The second purpose was "to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to lease such lands for certain purposes."7 OCSLA authorized the Secretary of the Interior to "provide for the assignment or relinquishment of leases, for the sale of royalty oil and gas" on OCS lands.8 This case concerns Section 12(a) of the Act, which provides as follows: "The President of the United States may, from time to time, withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf."9 In 2015 and 2016, President Obama issued three memoranda and one executive order withdrawing certain areas of the Outer Continental Shelf from leasing.10 On April 28, 2017, President Trump issued

363 F.Supp.3d 1017

Executive Order 13795, which purported to revoke the 2015 and 2016 withdrawals.11

On May 3, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in this case. Plaintiffs brought two claims: an alleged violation of the Constitution's Property Clause,12 and an alleged violation of the President's statutory authority under Section 12(a).13 On July 21, 2017, the Court granted API's motion to intervene.14 On September 1, 2017, the Court granted Alaska's motion to intervene.15 On March 19, 2018, the Court denied Federal Defendants', API's, and Alaska's motions to dismiss.16 On June 8, 2018, Plaintiffs filed their summary judgment motion.17 On July 18, 2018, Federal Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment.18 On August 2, 2018, API and Alaska filed their cross-motion and motion, respectively, for summary judgment.19

JURISDICTION

The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

LEGAL STANDARD

This case requires the Court to interpret a statute.20 When interpreting a

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statute, a court looks first to the statute's text, and then, if necessary, to the context in which the statute was enacted. It is a "fundamental canon of statutory construction that the words of a statute must be read in their context and with a view to their place in the overall statutory scheme."21

I. Statutory Text

Courts "begin with the understanding that Congress says in a statute what it means and means in a statute what it says there."22 Judicial "inquiry begins with the statutory text, and ends there as well if the text is unambiguous."23

II. Context

If the text of the statute is ambiguous, a court may rely on contextual clues to discern Congress's intent.24 A judge may look to a statute's structure, as a "statute should be construed so that effect is given to all its provisions, so that no part will be inoperative or superfluous, void or insignificant."25 Courts may also find congressional intent in legislative history,26 in how Congress treated a term in

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prior statutes,27 and in Congress's stated purpose in enacting the statute.28 In addition, although a court may consider actions subsequent to the statute's enactment, "subsequent legislative history will rarely override a reasonable interpretation of a statute that can be gleaned from its language and legislative history prior to its enactment."29

DISCUSSION

I. Federal Defendants' Procedural Challenges

Federal Defendants maintain that Plaintiffs fail to overcome several procedural hurdles: standing, ripeness, sovereign immunity, and the lack of a private right of action.30 The Court previously found for Plaintiffs as to each of these issues at the motion to dismiss stage.31

"In response to a summary judgment motion, ... the plaintiff ... must set forth by affidavit or other evidence specific facts which for purposes of the summary judgment motion will be taken to be true."32 Here, Plaintiffs have set forth sufficient specific facts to support their standing and right to pursue a private cause of action.33 Accordingly, the Court declines to

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reconsider these issues at the summary judgment stage.34

II. The Text of Section 12(a)

At issue in this case is the meaning of Section 12(a) of OCSLA: "The President of the United States may, from time to time, withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf."35 Plaintiffs maintain that this text only authorizes a President to withdraw lands from disposition; it does not authorize a President to revoke a prior withdrawal. Plaintiffs assert that under the Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the authority to revoke a prior withdrawal was not delegated by this statute to the President and thus remains vested solely with Congress.36

Federal Defendants respond that "Section 12(a) does not cabin the President's authority in any way, other than to clarify that lands must be unleased in order to be withdrawn."37 Federal Defendants maintain that "Plaintiffs' reading of Section 12(a) renders the phrase ‘from time to time’ unnecessary" because the phrase "may ... withdraw" implies the ability to do so "from time to time."38 API asserts that Section 12(a)'s "discretionary formulation—authorizing action that ‘may’ be taken ‘from time to time’—carries with it a power to revise action previously taken under the delegated authority."39

363 F.Supp.3d 1021

The text of Section 12(a) refers only to the withdrawal of lands; it does not expressly authorize the President to revoke a prior withdrawal. Congress appears to have expressed one concept—withdrawal—and excluded the converse—revocation. Furthermore, the phrase "from time to time" appears to clarify the President's withdrawal authority by giving him the discretion to withdraw lands at any time and for discrete periods; the phrase does not specifically give the President the authority to revoke a prior withdrawal.40 In any event, some withdrawals appear to have been intended to be permanent; others, for a limited time.41 President Obama's

363 F.Supp.3d 1022

2015 and 2016 Executive Orders each stated it was intended to apply "for a time period without specific expiration," and contained language indicating that all future leasing was intended to be prohibited in the areas encompassed by the withdrawals.42 The wording of President Obama's 2015 and 2016 withdrawals indicates that he intended them to extend indefinitely,...

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4 practice notes
  • Louisiana v. Biden, CASE NO. 2:21-CV-00778
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Louisiana
    • 15 d2 Junho d2 2021
    ...lie. Indigenous Env't Network v. Trump, 428 F. Supp. 3d 296 (D. Mont. 2019). The case of League of Conservation Voters v. Trump, 363 F. Supp. 3d 1013 (D. Alaska 2019), vacated and remanded sub nom. League of Conservation Voters v. Biden, 843 F. App'x 937 (9th Cir. 2021) involved issues cent......
  • Louisiana v. Biden, CASE NO. 2:21-CV-00778
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Louisiana
    • 15 d2 Junho d2 2021
    ...lie. Indigenous Env't Network v. Trump, 428 F. Supp. 3d 296 (D. Mont. 2019). The case of League of Conservation Voters v. Trump, 363 F. Supp. 3d 1013 (D. Alaska 2019), vacated and remanded sub nom. League of Conservation Voters v. Biden, 843 F. App'x 937 (9th Cir. 2021) involved issues cent......
  • Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Trump, CV-18-118-GF-BMM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Montana)
    • 20 d5 Dezembro d5 2019
    ...L.Ed. 446 (1935) ). Various courts have vacated unlawful presidential decisions. See, e.g. , League of Conservation Voters v. Trump , 363 F. Supp. 3d 1013, 1031 (D. Alaska 2019) ; Clinton v. City of New York , 524 U.S. 417, 433 n.22, 118 S.Ct. 2091, 141 L.Ed.2d 393 (1998). A court's power t......
  • Indigenous Envtl. Network v. Trump, CV-19-28-GF-BMM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Montana)
    • 20 d5 Dezembro d5 2019
    ...L.Ed. 446 (1935) ). Various courts have vacated unlawful presidential decisions. See, e.g. , League of Conservation Voters v. Trump , 363 F. Supp. 3d 1013, 1031 (D. Alaska 2019) ; Clinton v. City of New York , 524 U.S. 417, 433 n.22, 118 S.Ct. 2091, 141 L.Ed.2d 393 (1998). A court's power t......
4 cases
  • Louisiana v. Biden, CASE NO. 2:21-CV-00778
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Louisiana
    • 15 d2 Junho d2 2021
    ...lie. Indigenous Env't Network v. Trump, 428 F. Supp. 3d 296 (D. Mont. 2019). The case of League of Conservation Voters v. Trump, 363 F. Supp. 3d 1013 (D. Alaska 2019), vacated and remanded sub nom. League of Conservation Voters v. Biden, 843 F. App'x 937 (9th Cir. 2021) involved issues cent......
  • Louisiana v. Biden, CASE NO. 2:21-CV-00778
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Louisiana
    • 15 d2 Junho d2 2021
    ...lie. Indigenous Env't Network v. Trump, 428 F. Supp. 3d 296 (D. Mont. 2019). The case of League of Conservation Voters v. Trump, 363 F. Supp. 3d 1013 (D. Alaska 2019), vacated and remanded sub nom. League of Conservation Voters v. Biden, 843 F. App'x 937 (9th Cir. 2021) involved issues cent......
  • Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Trump, CV-18-118-GF-BMM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Montana)
    • 20 d5 Dezembro d5 2019
    ...L.Ed. 446 (1935) ). Various courts have vacated unlawful presidential decisions. See, e.g. , League of Conservation Voters v. Trump , 363 F. Supp. 3d 1013, 1031 (D. Alaska 2019) ; Clinton v. City of New York , 524 U.S. 417, 433 n.22, 118 S.Ct. 2091, 141 L.Ed.2d 393 (1998). A court's power t......
  • Indigenous Envtl. Network v. Trump, CV-19-28-GF-BMM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Montana)
    • 20 d5 Dezembro d5 2019
    ...L.Ed. 446 (1935) ). Various courts have vacated unlawful presidential decisions. See, e.g. , League of Conservation Voters v. Trump , 363 F. Supp. 3d 1013, 1031 (D. Alaska 2019) ; Clinton v. City of New York , 524 U.S. 417, 433 n.22, 118 S.Ct. 2091, 141 L.Ed.2d 393 (1998). A court's power t......

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