Mountain States Legal Foundation and American Forest Resource Council fight NEPA abuse

In America, checks and balances serve a critical purpose: they prevent the concentration of power in any single branch of government. They also keep the people’s expression of the “public interest” at the forefront of federal laws and regulations.

However, recent actions by the D.C. Circuit Court—now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case called Seven County Infrastructure Coalition v. Eagle County, Colorado—signal a troubling trend of judicial overreach. This overreach disregards Congress’ statutes that express the “public interest,” and directly threaten businesses, communities, and people who rely on active management of natural resources.

These businesses, communities, and people who engage in activities like active forest management, mining, oil and gas production, ranching, and recreation, already grapple with substantial regulatory interference. In Seven County, the D.C. Circuit Court made the situation worse. It sided with an unelected bureaucrat—a lone dissenter at the Surface Transportation Board—who opposed his colleagues’ approval of a much-needed rail line, even though Congress had already determined that building rail lines like this one are in the “public interest.”

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Mountain States Legal Foundation filed a “friend of the court brief” on behalf of the American Forest Resource Council (AFRC), asking the Court to intervene and review the case. The brief takes on the lower court’s misuse of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to ignore the public interest by placing the judges’ desired environmental policies on a pedestal above the actual “public interest” as expressed through laws approved by Congress. This underscores the need for judicial restraint, rather than “making law” from the bench. AFRC helps its members navigate the complex web of regulations imposed by the government, and it refuses to stand by and witness the government overreach its authority yet again.

Mountain States Legal Foundation Senior Attorney Ivan London said, “We are honored to represent the American Forest Resource Council in helping to bring this case to the Supreme Court’s attention. The Constitution does not let the lower courts and unelected regulators elevate their preferred policy outcomes over Congress’s laws. We hope the Court will take the case and put an end to this weaponized use of NEPA.”

AFRC Legal Counsel Sara Ghafouri said, “We thank the Mountain States Legal Foundation for taking the lead on this important case. Under our current broken system of federal land management, it often takes years for an agency to complete its NEPA analysis for an individual forest management project, providing hundreds of pages of analysis with the hopes of insulating the project from litigation on the grounds of insufficient environmental review. As severe wildfires continue to threaten our federal lands and adjacent communities, we cannot afford to add even more layers of bureaucracy to the regulatory process. AFRC strongly encourages the Supreme Court to grant this petition for certiorari and prevent further government overreach.”