Supreme Court To Hear Critical Case On NEPA’s Scope And Application

On a matter of vital importance, the Supreme Court of the United States today granted certiorari in the case of Seven County Infrastructure Coalition v. Eagle County, Colorado. This case presents a crucial opportunity to address the extensive and often overreaching applications of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which have significant implications for infrastructure and environmental law.

Seven County Infrastructure Coalition involves an essential 88-mile railroad project aimed at connecting the Uinta Basin in Utah to the national rail network. This infrastructure project would connect the people of Uinta Basin with the rest of the country, boosting the local economy through improved transportation for natural resources and agricultural products.

NEPA, a procedural statute, mandates an environmental review prior to project approval. Despite meeting this requirement, this infrastructure project faced legal challenges from Eagle County in Colorado and the big government-group the Center for Biological Diversity. These parties argued that the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) did not conduct the adequate environmental review that NEPA requires. Specifically, they contended that the STB did not sufficiently analyze potential environmental impacts, especially those related to increased oil and gas production. But these challengers are wrong.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the challengers, mandating that the project undergo a more detailed environmental review. In response, the Petitioner appealed, and Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) filed an amicus brief supporting the appeal on behalf of the American Forest Resource Council (AFRC), arguing that the lower court misapplied NEPA, and overstepped its authority by negating Congressional intent. We are thankful that the Supreme Court has now granted certiorari to review the case and will address these significant legal and regulatory issues.

Mountain States attorney Ivan London said, “Americans aren’t ruled by regulators. We have a Republic, if we can keep it, where elected officials are supposed to represent us. So when unelected regulators decided that they knew what’s best, we stepped in to support the appeal to the Supreme Court. Now, we are optimistic that we can help the Court explain that the long-time abuse of NEPA in the federal courts must stop.”

AFRC Legal Counsel Sara Ghafouri said, “AFRC thanks the Mountain States Legal Foundation for representing AFRC in Seven County Infrastructure Coalition and bringing this important case to the Supreme Court’s attention. We are pleased that the Court has granted the petition for certiorari, because it serves as an important opportunity to restore judicial restraint and prevent the lower courts and unelected regulators from elevating their own preferred policy outcomes over Congress’s laws. A successful outcome in this matter will help protect the businesses, communities, and people who rely on active management of natural resources.”

The Supreme Court’s decision to take the case underscores the national importance of resolving NEPA-related issues. A favorable ruling for the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition could set a precedent for more streamlined and predictable environmental-review processes, helping a wide range of stakeholders.