Weinberger v. Catholic Action of Hawaii Peace Education Project, No. 80-1377

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREHNQUIST
Citation70 L.Ed.2d 298,454 U.S. 139,102 S.Ct. 197
PartiesCaspar W. WEINBERGER, Secretary of Defense, et al., Petitioners v. CATHOLIC ACTION OF HAWAII/PEACE EDUCATION PROJECT, et al
Docket NumberNo. 80-1377
Decision Date01 December 1981

454 U.S. 139
102 S.Ct. 197
70 L.Ed.2d 298
Caspar W. WEINBERGER, Secretary of Defense, et al., Petitioners

v.

CATHOLIC ACTION OF HAWAII/PEACE EDUCATION PROJECT, et al.

No. 80-1377.
Argued Oct. 13, 1981.
Decided Dec. 1, 1981.
Syllabus

Section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires all federal agencies, "to the fullest extent possible," to include an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in proposals for major federal actions significantly affecting the environment, and also requires the EIS to be made available to the public, subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). With respect to the construction in Hawaii of new ammunition and weapons storage facilities containing magazines capable of storing nuclear weapons, the Navy prepared an Environmental Impact Assessment, which concluded that the new facilities would have no significant environmental impact, and therefore no EIS was prepared. Because the information is classified for national security reasons, the Navy's regulations forbid it either to admit or to deny that nuclear weapons are actually stored at the now-completed facilities. Before construction of the facilities was completed, respondents brought an action in Federal District Court seeking an injunction against the building of the facilities until an EIS had been filed. The District Court held that, in view of, inter alia, the Navy's own regulations, the Navy had complied with NEPA "to the fullest extent possible" within the meaning of § 102(2)(C). The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that § 102(2)(C) requires the Navy to prepare and release to the public a "Hypothetical Environmental Impact Statement" with regard to a facility capable of storing nuclear weapons.

Held: The Court of Appeals erred in requiring the Navy to prepare and release to the public a "Hypothetical Environmental Impact Statement." Pp. 143-147.

(a) In inventing such a statement the Court of Appeals departed from Congress' express intent manifested by the explicit language in § 102(2)(C) providing that public disclosure of an EIS should be governed by the FOIA. Here, Exemption 1 of the FOIA, which exempts from disclosure classified material dealing with national security, such as information relating to the storage of nuclear weapons, is applicable. Pp. 143-145.

Page 140

(b) Moreover, by requiring such a statement, the Court of Appeals required the production of a document that would not exist save for what that court thought to be NEPA's disclosure requirements. If the Navy would not be required by the FOIA to release an EIS were one already prepared, it is obviously not required to prepare a "hypothetical" EIS nowhere mentioned in NEPA. Pp. 145.

(c) The Navy is not required to prepare an EIS simply because the facilities in question are "nuclear capable," but rather it is the proposal to store nuclear weapons at those facilities that would trigger the obligation to prepare an EIS. Here, it has not been and cannot be established whether the Navy had made such a proposal. P. 146.

643 F.2d 569, reversed and remanded.

Sol. Gen. Rex E. Lee, Washington, D. C., for petitioners.

Nancy Stearns, New York City, for respondents.

Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that § 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 83 Stat. 853, 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C), requires the Navy to prepare and release to the public a "Hypothetical Environmental Impact Statement" with regard to the opera-

Page 141

tion of a facility capable of storing nuclear weapons. Catholic Action of Hawaii/Peace Education Project v. Brown, 643 F.2d 569, 572 (1980). Because we conclude that the "Hypothetical Environmental Impact Statement" is a creature of judicial cloth, not legislative cloth, and that it is not mandated by any of the statutory or regulatory provisions upon which the Court of Appeals relied, we reverse its decision.

The facts relevant to our decision are not seriously controverted. Pursuant to a decision by the Navy to transfer ammunition and weapons stored at various locations on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, to the West Loch branch of the Lualualei Naval Magazine, the Navy prepared an Environmental Impact Assessment 1 (EIA) concerning how the plan would affect the environment. The assessment concluded that the necessary construction of 48 earth-covered magazines and associated structures would have no significant environmental impact, and therefore no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was prepared at the construction stage. Construction contracts were let in March 1977 and in April 1978. Construction of the West Loch facilities has been completed and the magazines are now in use. It is stipulated that the magazines are capable of storing nuclear weapons. Because the information is classified for national security reasons, the Navy's regulations forbid it either to admit or to deny that nuclear weapons are actually stored at West Loch.2

In 1978, the Navy prepared a Candidate Environmental Impact Statement (CEIS). This CEIS deals generally with the environmental hazards associated with the storage, han-

Page 142

dling, and transportation of nuclear weapons, but does not refer to any specific site or storage facility. It concludes that no significant hazards to the environment are present.

In March 1978, respondents brought this action seeking an injunction against the building of the new facilities at West Loch until an EIS had been filed. Their principal complaint was that the Navy's EIA had ignored the enhanced risk of a nuclear accident resulting from West Loch's proximity to three nearby air facilities, the effects of such an accident on the population and environment of Hawaii, and the effects of radiation from the storage of nuclear weapons in a populated area. The United States District Court for the District of Hawaii concluded that the "construction and use of the storage facilities at West Loch is a major federal action" within the meaning of § 102(2)(C). 468 F.Supp. 190, 193 (1979). But given certain national security provisions of the Atomic Energy Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2011 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp.IV), and the Navy's own regulations concerning nuclear weapons, the District Court concluded that petitioners had complied with NEPA "to the fullest extent possible." 468 F.Supp., at 193. We find it unnecessary to reach the question posed by the District Court's reliance on the security provisions of the Atomic Energy Act,3 since respondents have made no showing in this case that the Navy has failed to comply, or even need comply, with NEPA's requirements regarding the preparation and public disclosure of an EIS.

Section 102(2)(C) of NEPA, 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C), provides that, "to the fullest extent possible," all federal agencies shall "include in every recommendation or report on proposals for legislation and other major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, a detailed statement" discussing, inter alia, the environmental impact of the proposed action and possible alternatives. Section 102(2)(C) also requires that the EIS be made available to the President, the Council on Environmental Quality

Page 143

(CEQ), and the public, subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552 (1976 ed. and Supp.V).

We have previously noted: "The thrust of § 102(2)(C) is . . . that environmental concerns be integrated into the very process of agency decisionmaking. The 'detailed statement' it requires is the outward sign that environmental values and consequences have been considered during the planning stage of agency actions." Andrus v. Sierra Club, 442 U.S. 347, 350, 99 S.Ct. 2335, 2337, 60 L.Ed.2d 943 (1979). Section 102(2)(C) thus serves twin aims. The first is to inject environmental considerations into the federal agency's decisionmaking process by requiring the agency to prepare an EIS. The second aim is to inform the public that the agency has considered environmental concerns in its decisionmaking process. Through the disclosure of an EIS, the public is made aware that the agency has taken environmental considerations into account. Public disclosure of the EIS is expressly governed by FOIA. 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C).

The decisionmaking and public disclosure goals of § 102(2)(C), though certainly compatible, are not necessarily coextensive. Thus, § 102(2)(C) contemplates that in a given situation a federal agency might have to include environmental considerations in its decisionmaking process, yet withhold public disclosure of any NEPA documents, in whole or in part, under the authority of an FOIA exemption. That the decisionmaking and disclosure requirements of NEPA are not coextensive has been recognized by the Department of Defense's regulations, both at the time the West Loch facility was constructed 4 and today.5

In an apparent attempt to balance what it considered to be the disclosure requirements of NEPA with national security interests, the Court of Appeals concluded that petitioners could prepare and disclose an EIS that would assess the im-

Page 144

pact of the storage of nuclear weapons at West Loch without revealing specific information regarding the number and type of nuclear weapons to be stored at the facility. 643 F.2d, at 572. The EIS could hypothesize, but not concede, that the facility will be used for the purpose for...

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104 practice notes
  • OKL. WILDLIFE FEDERATION v. US ARMY CORPS OF ENG., No. 87-C-237-B.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. Northern District of Oklahoma
    • January 5, 1988
    ...EIS need not be prepared simply because a project is contemplated, but only when the project is proposed." Weinberger v. Catholic Action, 454 U.S. 139, 146, 102 S.Ct. 197, 203, 70 L.Ed.2d 298 34. The Court of Appeals of the Tenth Circuit has also addressed the issue of when a cumulative imp......
  • Chilkat Indian Vill. of Klukwan v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., Case No. 3:17-cv-00253-TMB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Alaska
    • March 15, 2019
    ..., 435 U.S. at 553, 98 S.Ct. 1197 ).36 Baltimore Gas , 462 U.S. at 97, 103 S.Ct. 2246 (citing Weinberger v. Catholic Action of Hawaii , 454 U.S. 139, 143, 102 S.Ct. 197, 70 L.Ed.2d 298 (1981) ). See also Pit River Tribe v. U.S. Forest Serv. , 469 F.3d 768, 781 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Earth ......
  • Buck Mountain Cmty. Org. v. Tennessee Valley Auth., Case No. 2:08-cv-0040.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • May 18, 2009
    ...determined that the redacted material was exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. See Weinberger v. Catholic Action, 454 U.S. 139, 145, 102 S.Ct. 197, 70 L.Ed.2d 298 (1981) ("NEPA's public disclosure requirements are expressly governed by 10. The plaintiffs note that, i......
  • South East Lake View Neighbors v. Department of Housing and Urban Development, No. 81-2104
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • July 28, 1982
    ...have been considered during the planning stage of agency actions." Weinberger v. Catholic Action of Hawaii, 454 U.S. 138, ----, 102 S.Ct. 197, 201, 70 L.Ed.2d 298 (1981). The Act, however, did not confer a right on individuals to be free of environmental damage. Strycker's Bay Neighborhood ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
103 cases
  • OKL. WILDLIFE FEDERATION v. US ARMY CORPS OF ENG., No. 87-C-237-B.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. Northern District of Oklahoma
    • January 5, 1988
    ...EIS need not be prepared simply because a project is contemplated, but only when the project is proposed." Weinberger v. Catholic Action, 454 U.S. 139, 146, 102 S.Ct. 197, 203, 70 L.Ed.2d 298 34. The Court of Appeals of the Tenth Circuit has also addressed the issue of when a cumulative imp......
  • Chilkat Indian Vill. of Klukwan v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., Case No. 3:17-cv-00253-TMB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Alaska
    • March 15, 2019
    ..., 435 U.S. at 553, 98 S.Ct. 1197 ).36 Baltimore Gas , 462 U.S. at 97, 103 S.Ct. 2246 (citing Weinberger v. Catholic Action of Hawaii , 454 U.S. 139, 143, 102 S.Ct. 197, 70 L.Ed.2d 298 (1981) ). See also Pit River Tribe v. U.S. Forest Serv. , 469 F.3d 768, 781 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Earth ......
  • Buck Mountain Cmty. Org. v. Tennessee Valley Auth., Case No. 2:08-cv-0040.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • May 18, 2009
    ...determined that the redacted material was exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. See Weinberger v. Catholic Action, 454 U.S. 139, 145, 102 S.Ct. 197, 70 L.Ed.2d 298 (1981) ("NEPA's public disclosure requirements are expressly governed by 10. The plaintiffs note that, i......
  • South East Lake View Neighbors v. Department of Housing and Urban Development, No. 81-2104
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • July 28, 1982
    ...have been considered during the planning stage of agency actions." Weinberger v. Catholic Action of Hawaii, 454 U.S. 138, ----, 102 S.Ct. 197, 201, 70 L.Ed.2d 298 (1981). The Act, however, did not confer a right on individuals to be free of environmental damage. Strycker's Bay Neighborhood ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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