EIS violates NEPA for forgetting Eutrophication section

Joshua Tree Park

Joshua Tree Park

The 9th Circuit Appellate Court reviewed the EIS prepared for the exchange of land in Joshua Tree National Park between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Kaiser Eagle Mountain Inc. and confirmed that the EIS violated NEPA.  Specifically, the EIS:

  • used too narrow purpose objectives that resulted in a flawed alternative analysis, and
  • didn’t adequate address eutrophication or the introducing of new chemicals or nutrients into an ecosystem.

The court determined that the purpose and need in the EIS was more beneficial to the private Kaiser Company than the general public.  As a result, the alternatives that stemmed from the purpose were too narrow as well. Even though 6 alternatives were considered, the alternatives were focused on benefiting Kaiser instead of the general public and were written under the assumption that the land exchange would occur.

The court also decided that eutrophication was not properly addressed in the EIS. Instead of having an eutrophication section of the document, the EIS addressed eutrophication in a piecemeal fashion by referencing impacts in other sections of the document like air quality and disease vector control. This piecemeal approach failed to be a thorough look at how new nutrients would affect the ecosystem.

Scopion in Joshua Tree Park

Scopion in Joshua Tree Park

NEPA Lesson Learned:  Eutrophication should be addressed in its own section of the EIS when new pollutants will be introduced into an ecosystem.

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