Northern Alaska Environmental Center v. Hodel, 86-3535

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Citation803 F.2d 466
Docket NumberNo. 86-3535,86-3535
Parties, 17 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,015 NORTHERN ALASKA ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Donald P. HODEL, et al., Defendants, and Alaska Miners Association, et al., Defendants-Intervenors-Appellants.
Decision Date23 October 1986

Page 466

803 F.2d 466
6 Fed.R.Serv.3d 67, 17 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,015
Donald P. HODEL, et al., Defendants,
Alaska Miners Association, et al., Defendants-Intervenors-Appellants.
No. 86-3535.
United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted Aug. 12, 1986.
Decided Oct. 23, 1986.

Page 467

Philip S. Barrett, Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc., Juneau, Alaska, for plaintiff-appellee.

Martin W. Matzen, Dept. of Justice, Land & Nat. Resource Div., Washington, D.C., for defendants.

James S. Burling, Robin L. Rivett, Pacific Legal Foundation, Sacramento, Cal., for defendants-intervenors-appellants.

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

Before WRIGHT and FARRIS, Circuit Judges, and LETTS, * District Judge.

EUGENE A. WRIGHT, Circuit Judge:

This litigation arises from the clash of the differing interests of the National Park Service (NPS), miners and environmentalists over mining in Alaska's national parks. We must decide whether the district court abused its discretion in entering a preliminary injunction which effectively barred mining after the 1985 season until proper environmental analyses are performed. We hold that it did not.


(1) Did the court abuse its discretion in denying joinder of all miners who had submitted operations plans to the NPS?

(2) What is the effect of NPS's plan to prepare minerals management plans and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) evaluating the cumulative effects of mining in Wrangell-St. Elias, Yukon-Charley Rivers and Denali parks?

(3) Did the court err in requiring NPS separately to consider access permit applications?

(4) Did the court err in invalidating 36 C.F.R. Sec. 9.10(c), which mandates automatic approval of operations plans not acted on by NPS in a timely fashion?

(5) Did the court abuse its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction?


On May 8, 1985, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, the Denali Citizens Council and the Sierra Club (collectively "NAEC") sued to restrain the NPS from approving mining plans and access permits in Alaska's national parks until complying fully with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. Secs. 4321-70a, and NPS regulations implementing the Mining in the Parks Act, 16 U.S.C. Secs. 1901-12. NAEC moved for a preliminary injunction, and the government moved to join all miners having approved or pending operations plans.

The court denied the joinder motion and granted a preliminary injunction. It required the NPS to: (1) prepare environmental assessments before approving any further mining plans; (2) cease using its temporary approval authority without prior court approval; (3) consider separately the grant or denial of access permits where such permits are required by NPS regulations; and (4) prepare EIS's considering cumulative environmental effects before approving or permitting any further mining operations in two of Alaska's national parks, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. The court also voided the 1985 mining approvals and directed the NPS to order the shutdown of existing mining operations within 45 days.

The Alaska Miners Association and Resource Development Council for Alaska (AMA) intervened as defendants and obtained a modification of the injunction to permit continuation of existing operations until the close of the mining season, October 15, 1985. The government moved for reconsideration of the cumulative EIS issue, and NAEC moved to expand that requirement to include Denali National Park and Preserve. The court denied the government's motion and granted NAEC's.

Initially, both the miners and the government appealed. The government has since

Page 468

dropped its appeal. It has decided to prepare comprehensive EIS's on the Denali, Wrangell-St. Elias and Yukon-Charley River areas. According to the Federal Register notice, the EIS's will address the cumulative effects of "all past, present, and reasonably forseeable [sic] future mining and mineral development activities in each park." 51 Fed.Reg. 16903 (May 7, 1986).

(1) Joinder

The government moved to join as necessary parties under Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a) 1 all miners who had submitted operations plans to the NPS. It cited prohibition of mining as the practical consequence of the relief plaintiffs sought. It urged that the injuries suffered by these persons could not be articulated adequately by others, and that failure to name the defendants subjects them to substantial risks of inconsistent obligations. Finally, it argued that joinder is feasible.

The court disagreed. It held that joinder was infeasible due to the geographically scattered nature of Alaska mining and that the "public interest" exception to Rule 19 applied.

We review Rule 19 determinations for abuse of discretion. Bakia v. County of Los Angeles, 687 F.2d 299, 301 (9th Cir.1982) (per curiam). "There is no precise formula for determining whether a particular nonparty should be joined under Rule 19(a). ... The determination is heavily influenced by the facts and circumstances of each case." Id.

We can affirm on any basis supported in the record. Smith v. Block, 784 F.2d 993, 996 n. 4 (9th Cir.1986). We conclude that the absent miners do not satisfy the requirements for a "necessary party" under Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a). See Northrop Corp. v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 705 F.2d 1030, 1043 (9th Cir.) (because government was not necessary party, court need not consider whether joinder is feasible, and, if not, whether government's presence would be indispensable), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 849, 104 S.Ct. 156, 78 L.Ed.2d 144 (1983).

Rule 19(a) applies where joinder would have either of two effects. First, joinder must be ordered if complete relief cannot be accorded among the parties. Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a)(1). There is no suggestion that the miners' absence would preclude the court from fashioning meaningful relief among NAEC, AMA and NPS. See Eldredge v. Carpenters 46 Northern California Counties Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, 662 F.2d 534, 537 (9th Cir.1981) (while desirable to join all 4500 employees to eradicate sex discrimination, relief on plaintiff's claims against the defendant can be afforded by an injunction against that party alone), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 917, 103 S.Ct. 231, 74 L.Ed.2d 183 (1982).

Next, we consider whether the absentee "claims an interest relating to the subject of the action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a)(2). If the interest requirement is not satisfied, we need not reach the factors in clauses (2)(i) and (ii).

Here, the absent miners do not possess the requisite legally protected interest in the subject matter. See 3A Moore's Federal Practice p 19.07[2.-0], at 19-99 (2d ed. 1986) (must be legally protected interest, not merely financial interest or interest of convenience).

Page 469

The "subject matter" of this dispute concerns NPS procedures regarding mining plan approval. Naturally, all miners are "interested" in how stringent the requirements will be. But miners with pending plans have no legal entitlement to any given set of procedures. See Sierra Club v. Watt, 608 F.Supp. 305, 321-24 (E.D.Cal.1985) (mineral interest owners do not have legally protected interest in dispute concerning propriety of Secretary of Interior's orders on removal of lands from wilderness inventory). 2 Denial of the joinder motion was not an abuse of discretion.

(2) Cumulative EIS Requirement

Appellants contest the court's requirement that enjoins the federal defendants from permitting any further mining in Wrangell-St. Elias, Yukon-Charley Rivers and Denali parks "until adequate environmental impact statements have been prepared that...

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