According to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) approval of a $1.9-billion, 117-mile California power line was not subject to judicial review. Backcountry Against Dumps v. San Diego Gas & Electric Co., No. 11-56121 (9th Cir. 7/31/12). So ruling, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment.
BLM approved the project in January 2009, and its record of decision took effect after a Department of Interior (DOI) appeals board denied a motion to stay the approval in May. Plaintiffs, a group of nonprofits, argued that BLM’s approval violated the Eastern San Diego County Resource Management Plan because it did not require an update of the environmental impact statement to account for small project changes. They also alleged violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Land Policy Management Act.
The district and Ninth Circuit courts, however, ruled that the DOI appeals board’s denial did not rise to the level of “final agency action” under the Administrative Procedure Act and therefore was not reviewable by a federal court. According to the courts, the board’s approval was procedural and not on the merits.