UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK.
March 2, 1977
Mobil Oil Corp., Gulf Oil Corp., Shell Oil Co., and Standard Oil Co. of California
Federal Trade Commission, and Lewis A. Engman, Chairman, Paul Rand Dixon, Member, Mary Elizabeth Hanford, Member, Stephen Nye, Member, Mayo J. Thompson, Member, and Charles A. Tobin, Secretary, as officers of the Federal Trade Commission.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CANNELLA
CANNELLA, D.J.: Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is granted. Defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint and, alternatively, for summary judgment are denied.
On July 18, 1973, the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC" or "Commission") issued a complaint, In the Matter of Exxon Corp., et al., Docket No. 8934 (hereinafter this administrative proceeding will be referred to as Exxon), charging the plaintiffs herein and four other major oil companies with violations of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45. The respondents in Exxon are charged with combining to monopolize the refining of crude oil into petroleum products, maintaining monopoly power over the refining process, and restraining trade and maintaining a noncompetitive market structure in this industry. The Commission also is challenging certain alleged practices including joint ventures in transport and in onshore and offshore lease bidding. By way of relief, Commission counsel stated that they were seeking substantial divestiture of the pipelines and refinery capacity owned by the Exxon respondents.
Specifically, the proposed relief includes:
(1) The divestiture of 40 to 60 percent of respondents' refinery capacity in the relevant market and the establishment of 10 to 13 new firms;
(2) The divestiture of all crude and produce pipelines which connect directly to the new firms and are owned and operated by the refining department of the parent; and
(3) The transfer to the new firms of fractional ownership shares in connecting joint venture pipelines.
Soon after the commencement of the action, the Exxon respondents moved to require complaint counsel to file an environmental impact statement ("EIS") exploring the environmental consequences of the proposed relief. In support of their joint motion, the Exxon respondents argued that the requested relief would constitute "major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment" within the meaning of Section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C).
On February 5, 1975, the administrative law judge denied the motion to require an EIS as well as a motion for immediate certification to the Commission. In so acting, he placed primary reliance upon an FTC rule
exempting law enforcement proceedings instituted by the Commission from the requirements of § 102(2)(C). On February 25, 1975, the Exxon respondents' request to file an interlocutory appeal from the denial of their motion was denied by the administrative law judge. They then petitioned for extraordinary review by the Commission, which was denied on April 29, 1975.
On June 6, 1975, five of the nine Exxon respondents brought the instant action seeking to enforce FTC compliance with the requirements of § 102(2)(C) of NEPA. Plaintiffs have moved for summary judgment on their claims that complaint counsel are required by § 102(2)(C) of NEPA to file an EIS and that § 1.82(d) of the FTC's Rules of Practice is void as being in conflict with NEPA. In response to this motion the defendants have cross-moved for dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the grounds that the plaintiffs lack standing, that their suit is premature and that their complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and, alternatively, for summary judgment. Based upon the Court's finding that the Commission's institution of the Exxon proceeding constitutes a "major Federal significantly affecting the quality of the human environment," 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C), the Court concludes that plaintiffs herein are entitled to summary judgment.
The threshold issue in this case is whether plaintiffs have standing to challenge the FTC's institution of an enforcement proceeding against them without first having filed an environmental impact statement.
Whether a litigant has standing to seek judicial determination of his claims has been litigated on numerous occasions before the United States Supreme Court. In a recent opinion, the Court stated:
This inquiry involves both constitutional limitations on federal-court jurisdiction and prudential limitations on its exercise. E.g., Barrows v. Jackson, 346 U.S. 249, 255-256, 97 L. Ed. 1586, 73 S. Ct. 1031 (1953)....
In its constitutional dimension, standing imports justiciability: whether the plaintiff has made out a "case or controversy" between himself and the defendant within the meaning of Art. III. This is the threshold question in every federal case, determining the power of the court to entertain the suit. As an aspect of justiciability, the standing question is whether the plaintiff has "alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy" as to warrant his invocation of federal-court jurisdiction and to justify exercise of the court's remedial powers on his behalf. Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 7 L. Ed. 2d 663, 82 S. Ct. 691 (1962).
Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498-99, 45 L. Ed. 2d 343, 95 S. Ct. 2197 (1975).
When the litigant claims that he is "[a] person suffering legal wrong because of agency action, or adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of a relevant statute," 5 U.S.C. § 702, the standing test has been articulated as whether the complainant has suffered "injury in fact" to an interest "arguably within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated" by that statute.
Association of Data Processing Serv. Orgs. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 153, 90 S. Ct. 827, 25 L. Ed. 2d 184 (1970);
accord, Evans v. Hills, 537 F.2d 589, 590-92 (2d Cir. 1976) (en banc). But see K. Davis, Administrative Law of the Seventies § 22.02-11 (1976). Although the injury in fact in Data Processing was economic, the Court recognized that this "interest, at times, may reflect 'aesthetic, conservational, and recreational' as well as economic values." 397 U.S. at 154; accord, United States v. SCRAP, 412 U.S. 669, 686-87, 93 S. Ct. 2405, 37 L. Ed. 2d 254 (1973); Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 733-34, 31 L. Ed. 2d 636, 92 S. Ct. 1361 (1972).
The interests sought to be protected by NEPA may be gleaned from the statute's declaration of purpose:
To declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation....
42 U.S.C. § 4321. Accordingly, plaintiffs have standing to bring this action only if they have alleged - and can prove - environmental injury in fact.
Such injury was alleged in United States v. SCRAP, supra, wherein environmental organizations sought to enjoin the enforcement of an Interstate Commerce Commission order that would allow railroads to collect a surcharge. They argued, as do the plaintiffs herein, that the agency's failure to file an EIS rendered its action unlawful. The allegations of the environmental organizations that their members used the natural resources in the Washington metropolitan area for recreation and "that this use was disturbed by the adverse environmental impact caused by the nonuse of recyclable goods brought about by a rate increase on those commodities," 412 U.S. at 685, were found sufficient to confer standing on the groups to challenge the rate increase.
In the instant action, plaintiffs allege that the relief requested by the FTC in the enforcement proceeding would result in unnecessary depletion of our nation's natural resources. As oil companies, dependent upon these resources, plaintiffs would thereby suffer injury in fact. The injury alleged is thus both economic (without the necessary supply of resources, the companies might suffer reduced revenues) and environmental (by virtue of their status as oil companies, plaintiffs have a stake in our nation's environment).
Additionally, plaintiffs allege that the proposed divestiture of a substantial percentage of their refineries and pipelines would have a polluting effect on the environment. It is claimed, for example, that various aspects of a refinery's operations, including - "the sulfur content of the crude oil refined, the percentage of capacity at which it is operated and the means of transportation used for crude oil and refined product" - directly affect the environment.
A relationship thus established between the environment and a particular refinery, it would follow that any change in operations inevitably would have an environmental impact.
The FTC also is challenging the number of processing arrangements and exchange agreements among the major oil companies. It is alleged by the plaintiffs that restrictions on these arrangements, which are designed to reduce transportation, would lead to increased fuel consumption and pollution.
The FTC is further objecting to the oil companies' practices concerning joint ventures in lease bidding. The plaintiffs contend that any alteration in these practices, especially with respect to offshore drilling, would affect the environment. In support of this argument, they cite the 1974 Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the Bureau of Land Management of the United States Department of Interior re: Proposed Increase in Acreage to be Offered for Oil and Gas Leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf. According to this Report, the production of oil, which entails "accidental loss of debris, discharge of drill cuttings, sand, drilling fluids, the burial of pipelines, and the accidental spillage of oil or other toxic materials," id., vol. 2, at 162, involves environmental consequences to the land, water and living organisms as well as affecting the aesthetic environment.
The above allegations, if proved, would be sufficient to confer standing on the plaintiffs. Because the Commission also has accused the plaintiff companies of diverting investment funds from domestic to foreign crude exploration and production, however, they will not be put to this proof. The Court is persuaded by plaintiffs' argument that an increase in domestic exploration and production "would, by its very terms, change the scope and speed with which domestic reserves are developed and depleted, thereby affecting vital supplies of natural resources,"
and agrees that "[this] intention to alter the way in which society's resources are used in and of itself supplies sufficient need for an impact statement.
Support for this conclusion may be found in National Helium Corp. v. Morton, 455 F.2d 650 (10th Cir. 1971). That case involved a challenge to the Secretary of the Interior's decision to terminate contracts for the purchase of helium from the plaintiff companies. The plaintiffs claimed that the Secretary could not terminate these contracts without complying with the impact statement process. Anticipating an objection to their standing to raise NEPA claims, the plaintiffs "alleged that if the helium is not extracted by them from the natural gas before the natural gas is delivered to the consumer, the helium would be vented into the atmosphere and lost when the natural gas was consumed as fuel." Id. at 653. The court found that the companies were motivated not only by their pecuniary interest in the continuation of the contracts, but also shared the public interest in avoiding needless "rapid depletion of the helium resources of the country." Id. at 656. Based upon these findings, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the judgment below enjoining the contracts' termination pending the Secretary's compliance with NEPA.
The depletion of our nation's resources is an injury to the very interest to be protected by NEPA. Like the plaintiffs in National Helium, the instant plaintiffs have shown that they would be among the injured, compare Sierra Club, supra, 405 U.S. at 735-40, and the Court therefore finds that they have standing to bring this action.
The Government's reliance on two cases in which plaintiffs lacked standing to advance their claims, is misplaced. In Zlotnick v. Redevelopment Land Agency, 2 ELR 20235 (D.D.C. 1972), aff'd without opinion, 494 F.2d 1157 (D.C. Cir. 1974), wherein plaintiffs opposed an urban renewal plan, the court found that their interest in enjoining condemnation of their land was financial only. The plaintiffs did not live in the affected area and the land they owned consisted merely of a downtown lot. Noting plaintiffs' continuing efforts towards a financial settlement, the court opined that "they would abandon their environmental concerns in a moment if the price were right." Id. at 20236.
In Clinton Community Hosp. Corp. v. Southern Md. Medical Center, 374 F. Supp. 450 (D. Md. 1974), aff'd per curiam, 510 F.2d 1037 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 422 U.S. 1048, 95 S. Ct. 2666, 45 L. Ed. 2d 700 (1975), plaintiff hospital sought to enjoin the construction of a new facility approximately two miles away, claiming that, since aircraft passing over the proposed site would endanger the new facility's patients, an EIS should have been filed before the Department of Health, Education and Welfare ("HEW") issued a grant of feasibility for the proposed project. The amended complaint emphasized plaintiff's pecuniary interest in securing an injunction: plaintiff's 33-bed hospital would be unable to compete with a new 200-bed hospital nearby. Citing Zlotnick, the court held that this economic injury was not within the zone of interest protected by NEPA. Plaintiff's allegation that the environment in which the proposed hospital was to be situated would adversely affect the new facility's patients also did not render plaintiff a proper party to bring the suit. Firstly, the allegation did not constitute an injury suffered by the plaintiff. Furthermore, the injury suffered by hospital patients due to the hospital's environment may very well be within the zone of interests sought to be protected by an HEW statute regulating noise levels in patient care facilities, but is not even arguably within the zone of interests to be protected by NEPA.
A case procedurally similar to the instant case is Gifford-Hill & Co., Inc. v. FTC, 389 F. Supp. 167 (D.D.C 1974), aff'd, 173 U.S. App. D.C. 135, 523 F.2d 730 (D.D. Cir. 1975). There, the FTC had instituted an adjudicatory proceeding against Gifford-Hill to determine whether the company was in violation of the antitrust laws. Alleging that the proceedings might lead to a divestiture order with resultant environmental impact, plaintiff filed an action in the district court to have the administrative complaint nullified for failure of the Commission to file an EIS. In deciding that plaintiff lacked standing, the court of appeals found that Gifford-Hill's injury in fact - the cost of making its defense in the administrative proceeding and the risk of an adverse ruling - was not even arguably within the zone of interests to be protected by NEPA.
Thus, beyond the point of procedural similarity, Gifford-Hill is clearly distinguishable from the case presently before the Court.
Like the plaintiffs in Zlotnick, Clinton Community Hospital and Gifford-Hill, the instant plaintiffs will suffer financially if the FTC's enforcement action is successful. But financial injury in fact, although an insufficient predicate for actions brought pursuant to NEPA, does not automatically preclude a plaintiff from instituting such suits. As was noted with respect to plaintiffs in National Helium Corp. v. Morton, 455 F.2d 650, 654 (10th Cir. 1971), it may be "'passing strange' to see the giants of the oil and gas industry representing the public interest, but... they [are] not per se disqualified to occupy this role...."
The plaintiff oil companies are profit-seeking corporations. Their financial concerns, however, do not at all hinder their standing to raise NEPA issues because they "have alleged an injury in fact, namely, damage to the environment in which they work and upon which they depend for their livelihood and continued maintenance of the quality of their lives. This interest is arguably within the zone of interest sought to be protected by this intentionally broad protective statute." Duke City Lumber Co. v. Butz, 382 F. Supp. 362, 374 n. 35 (D.D.C. 1974).
A litigant may have standing to object to certain agency action, yet may be unable to have his claims decided at a particular time because the action or allegedly critical effect thereof is too remote or uncertain. In this regard, the FTC claims that the oil companies are not now entitled to judicial review because (1) they have not exhausted their administrative remedies; (2) there has not been any "final agency action" within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. § 704; and (3) the controversy is not yet ripe.
The FTC argues that the plaintiffs have not exhausted their administrative remedies because they brought this action before the Commission's enforcement proceeding culminated in a final order.
Plaintiffs counter that they satisfied the exhaustion requirement when their attempts to appeal the denial of their motion to require the Commission's filing of an EIS were unsuccessful.
It has been observed that
[the] doctrine is grounded upon several considerations: (1) the complaining party may ultimately prevail in the administrative proceeding; (2) fact questions may be presented which require factual determinations more properly addressed to the expertise of an agency than to a federal district court; and (3) resolution of these fact questions by the agency may effectively reduce or eliminate entirely the need for judicial review.
Atlantic Richfield Co. v. FTC, 398 F. Supp. 1, 11 (S.D. Tex. 1975); accord, McKart v. United States, 395 U.S. 185, 193-95, 23 L. Ed. 2d 194, 89 S. Ct. 1657 (1969).Consequently, it is necessary to examine the circumstances surrounding the particular agency ruling to determine whether further administrative proceedings might ultimately yield a result in movant's favor or illuminate the issue for subsequent judicial review.
The FTC denied respondents' motion to require complaint counsel to file as EIS specifically because the Commission's own regulations exempt adjudicatory proceedings from the requirements of § 102(2)(C) of NEPA.
Leave to appeal was denied because the administrative law judge found that § 1.82(d) "clearly controls the instant matter and there is no basis for finding that there is a substantial ground for difference of opinion as to the application of the rule."
Similarly, the Commission denied respondents' petition for extraordinary review, finding nothing to warrant departure from regular procedures.
In that the administrative law judge based his legal conclusion that Exxon was not subject to § 102(2)(C) of NEPA on § 1.82(d) of the FTC regulations, it is extremely unlikely that the Commission ultimately will Nor was the judge's ruling related to factual considerations wherein a fuller administrative record might aid judicial review.
Thus, with respect to the issue now before the Court, plaintiffs have exhausted all avenues of administrative review. The fact that the adjudicative proceeding has not yet come to a close does not prevent this Court from concluding that plaintiffs have exhausted their administrative remedies. See generally Pepsico, Inc. v. FTC, 472 F.2d 179, 186 n.7 (2d Cir. 1972) (Friendly, C.J.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 876, 38 L. Ed. 2d 122, 94 S. Ct. 44 (1973).
Final Agency Action/Ripeness
The Court has jurisdiction to review the FTC's failure to file an EIS adjunct to its enforcement proceeding against the plaintiffs only if the institution of that proceeding may be considered "final agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy in a court." 5. U.S.C. § 704. It is therefore necessary to define what is meant by "final agency action" and to see if the action taken by the FTC comes within that definition. The legislative history of the statute is not very helpful, see Pepsico, Inc., supra at 186, but the cases undertake a functional analysis of this chameleon-like concept.
This point was explained in Gage v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 356 F. Supp. 80 (N.D. Ill. 1972). Plaintiffs therein sought to enjoin Edison's acquisition of land for a nuclear power plant pending the Atomic Energy Commission's filing of an EIS. The Commission moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Since jurisdiction had been asserted pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 704, the district court had to decide whether the Commission's failure to file an EIS constituted "final agency action." The court opined that
The AEC's alleged failure to act can constitute "final agency action" only if it can be established that the AEC has a clear legal duty under NEPA so to act. Absent such a duty, the AEC's inaction cannot be construed as final, for "final" necessarily implies that nothing is forthcoming in a certain course of action.... [The] AEC's alleged present failure to prepare an environmental analysis prior to Edison's land acquisition cannot be considered final unless (1) the AEC has a clear statutory duty to prepare it prior to that time and (2) the land acquisition has occurred without the AEC's preparation of the analysis 356 F. Supp. at 84.
In accord with this reasoning, assuming, arguendo, that FTC rule 1.82(d) does not immunize Commission enforcement proceedings from the mandate of § 102(2)(C) of NEPA, the mere institution of the Exxon action may be viewed as "final action" only if the FTC was required to have filed an EIS prior to commencement of the proceeding. In this regard, the Commission argues that environmental considerations are irrelevant unless and until a violation is found and that, if a violation is found and a remedy formulated, plaintiffs will have ample opportunity to press their NEPA claims. The purpose of the Commission action, however, is not to secure a declaratory judgment that respondents' activities violate the FTCA but to end such violations and prevent their recurrence. Admittedly, the procurement of a remedy hinges on the Commission finding that the oil companies are in fact violating the antitrust laws, but so does the success of any agency proposal depend upon many nonenvironmental factors.
The fact that a particular proposal might be abandoned somewhere along the reviewing road has never justified postponing environmental considerations until a final decision has been reached. See e.g., Greene County Planning Bd. v. FPC, 455 F.2d 412, 418-22 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 849, 34 L. Ed. 2d 90, 93 S. Ct. 56 (1972).
NEPA requires more than an after-the-fact acknowledgment of the environmental consequences that will flow from agency action; it requires that those consequences be examined in considering whether to undertake such action. Harlem Valley Transp. Ass'n v. Stafford, 500 F.2d 328, 335-36 (2d Cir. 1974); Jones v. D.C. Redevelopment Land Agency, 162 U.S. App. D.C. 366, 499 F.2d 502, 511 (D.C. Cir. 1974), Greene County Planning Bd. v. FPC, 455 F.2d 412, 418-22 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 849, 34 L. Ed. 2d 90, 93 S. Ct. 56 (1972); Calvert Cliffs' Coordinating Comm. v. United States Atomic Energy Comm'n, 146 U.S. App. D.C. 33, 449 F.2d 1109, 1127-29 (D.C. Cir. 1971) (Wright, J.).
In Calvert Cliffs', supra, the petitioners challenged rules of the Atomic Energy Commission ("AEC") concerning certain nuclear facilities for which construction permits had been granted prior to the effective date of NEPA. The court of appeals ordered the AEC to revise its rules so that a full consideration of environmental issues would not await the operating license proceedings, a time when construction of the facilities already would have been completed. Judge Wright, speaking for the court, feared that at this stage
there is likely to be an "irreversible and irretrievable commitment of resources," which will inevitably restrict the Commission's options. Either the licensee will have to undergo a major expense in making alterations in a completed facility or the environmental harm will have to be tolerated. It is all too probable that the latter result would come to pass.
449 F. Supp. at 1128.
This analysis compels the conclusion that if the FTC is required to file an EIS, it must do so before it decides to proceed on a course of action which has as its goal an object that will significantly affect the environment.
The cases of Pepsico, Inc. v. FTC, 472 F.2d 179 (2d Cir. 1972), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 876, 38 L. Ed. 2d 122, 94 S. Ct. 44 (1973), and Bristol-Myers Co. v. FTC, 469 F.2d 1116 (2d Cir. 1972), do not weaken the Court's conclusion that plaintiffs herein meet the requirements of 5 U.S.C. § 704. PepsiCo involved the denial of a motion to dismiss for nonjoinder of 513 Pepsi bottlers, after the FTC had granted the motion of the two bottlers that desired to intervene. The court affirmed the decision below, 343 F. Supp. 396 (S.D.N.Y. 1972) (Cannella, J.), concluding that plaintiffs did not prove that without joinder of all the bottlers the administrative proceedings would result in a void order. Indeed, the Second Circuit found that the "decision whether to accede to PepsiCo's request for joinder was within the Commission's discretion." Id. at 190.
This situation is clearly distinguishable from the case before the Court. If § 102(2)(C) applies to FTC enforcement proceedings, the Commission is under a mandatory obligation to file an EIS at the commencement of the action. Failure to comply with this absolute requirement would operate to invalidate any order issuing from the administrative proceeding.
The FTC investigation in Bristol-Myers, supra, had not proceeded even to the point where a formal complaint was issued when Bristol-Myers sought to compel the Commission to issue subpoenas to aid the company's evidence-gathering. When the request was denied Bristol-Myers brought an action in district court. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's refusal to intervene at this stage of the investigation, finding that Bristol-Myers would be afforded ample opportunity to present its claim to a court of appeals when and if a final cease and desist order issued. The court recognized that some circumstances may "justify interlocutory resort to corrective judicial process," 469 F.2d at 1118, but concluded that this was not such a case. By contrast, this Court finds that the instant alleged violation of § 102(2)(C) of NEPA - a major implementing vehicle for significant substantive legislation - compels immediate judicial intervention.
If the FTC is required to comply with § 102(2)(C) of NEPA, it violated a mandatory statutory obligation when it failed to prepare an EIS prior to the commencement of the administrative proceeding. Ergo, the institution of Exxon constitutes "final agency action" for the purpose of giving this Court jurisdiction to decide the remaining claims.
Based upon the foregoing analysis, the Court also finds plaintiffs' claims to be ripe.
Having determined that plaintiffs are proper parties to bring this suit and that issues are fit for judicial scrutiny at this time, the Court must grapple with the central issue of the instant controversy: Does § 102(2)(C) of NEPA apply to an FTC enforcement proceeding? The Court holds that it does, thereby invalidating § 1.82(d) of the FTC Rules of Practice as inconsistent with a federal statute. See, e.g., Campbell v. Galeno Chem. Co., 281 U.S. 599, 610, 50 S. Ct. 412, 74 L. Ed. 1063 (1930) (Brandeis, J.).
The Statute: What It Says; What It Means
The inquiry begins with an examination of both the specific provision in question and the statutory scheme as a whole. Congress's purpose in enacting NEPA, as stated in § 101 of the Act, was "to use all practicable means and measures" to create and maintain a productive harmony between man and his environment by improving and coordinating "Federal plans, functions, programs, and resources" to that end.
The Report of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs on Senate Bill S. 1075 notes with concern that, whereas "[virtually] every agency of the Federal Government plays some role in determining how well the environment is managed..., many of these agencies do not have a mandate, a body of law, or a set of policies to guide their actions which have an impact on the environment." S. Rep. No. 91-296, 91st Cong., 1st Sess. 9 (1969), 115 Cong. Rec. (Part 14) 19010 (hereinafter "Senate Report"). The success of traditional national policies, designed to increase both the production of goods and our gross national product, has been reaped at the expense of an eroding environment. Thus, § 102 of NEPA "authorizes and directs that, to the fullest extent [possible,]
.. all agencies of the Federal Government shall" develop procedures to ensure the consideration of environmental implications in all planning and decision-making, thereby making "environmental protection a part of the mandate of every federal agency and department." Calvert Cliffs' Coordinating Comm. v. United States Atomic Energy Comm'n, 146 U.S. App. D.C. 33, 449 F.2d 1109, 1112 (D.C. Cir. 1971); see City of New York v. United States, 337 F. Supp. 150, 160 (E.D.N.Y. 1972) (Three-Judge District Court, Friendly, C.J.); Hearings on S. 1075, S. 237, S. 1752 before Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 91st Cong., 1st Sess. 206 (1969) (hereinafter " Senate Hearings"); 115 Cong. Rec. (Part 30) 40416 (1969).
During the Senate Hearings on the bill, Professor Lynton K. Caldwell of the University of Indiana recognized the need for and urged that the Act contain an "action-forcing, operational aspect" so that, for example, "Federal agencies, in submitting proposals, an evaluation of the effect of these proposals upon the state of the environment...." Senate Hearings, supra at 116. This recommendation was incorporated into the Act as § 102(2)(C). See Senate Report at 20 (Section-by-Section Analysis, Title 1, Sec. 102) 115 Cong. Rec. (Part 30) 40419-20 (1969); see Kleppe v. Sierre Club, ... 427 U.S. 390, 96 S. Ct. 2718, 49 L. Ed. 2d 576, 44 U.S.L.W. 5104 5107 n. 12 U.S. (June 28, 1976).
Federal agencies have complied with NEPA's mandate to varying degrees, see, e.g., Chelsea Neighborhood Ass'ns v. United States Postal Serv., 516 F.2d 378, 383-86 (2d Cir. 1975); City of New York v. United States, supra at 158. The FTC has accepted its obligation to prepare an impact statement when a Commission rule, guide, or legislative proposal or report concerns a matter that significantly affects the environment, 16 C.F.R. § 1.82(a), (b), yet has viewed § 102(2)(C) as plainly inapplicable to adjudicatory proceedings brought by the Commission.
The breadth of the triggering clause, however, reflects "the Act's attempt to promote an across-the-board adjustment in federal agency decision making so as to make the quality of the environment a concern of every federal agency." Scientists Inst. for Pub. Info. v. Atomic Energy Comm'n, 156 U.S. App. D.C. 395, 481 F.2d 1079, 1088 (D.C. Cir. 1973) (emphasis added). Therefore, an agency hoping to except certain of its actions - on their face covered by the section - from the impact statement process bears a heavy burden.
The Case Law
The Supreme Court has stated that "NEPA was not intended to repeal by implication any other statute," United States v. SCRAP, 412 U.S. 669, 694, 93 S. Ct. 2405, 37 L. Ed. 2d 254 (1973), and that, "where a clear and unavoidable conflict in statutory authority exists, NEPA must give way," Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Assoc., ... 426 U.S. 776, 96 S. Ct. 2430, 49 L. Ed. 2d 205, 44 U.S.L.W. 4954, 4957 (U.S. June 24, 1976).
Accord, Colorado Pub. Interest Res. Group, Inc. v. Hills, 420 F. Supp. 582, 584-85 (D. Colo. 1976). Thus, an agency will not be required to prepare an EIS when so doing would be inconsistent with its mandatory duties under a statute.
This can be illustrated best by an examination of cases in which the actions of certain agencies were held exempt from the requirements of § 102(2)(C) of NEPA. Basically, the cases fall into two groups - those dealing with emergency acts or other situations wherein time was of the essence, and those concerning actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") - and will be treated accordingly.
In Cohen v. Price Commission, 337 F. Supp. 1236 (S.D.N.Y. 1972) (Weinfeld, J.), plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to restrain transportation-related public agencies from collecting the increased fares and tolls authorized by an order of the Price Commission, on the ground that the Commission failed to prepare an EIS before issuing the order. It therefore was necessary to determine whether "the Price Commission - a temporary agency and one intended to act... with dispatch - " id. at 1241, was bound by NEPA's mandates. Judge Weinfeld examined the short-range purpose of the Economic Stabilization Act of 1970 ("ESA") and found that the Commission would be defeated in implementing the ESA's program were it required to undergo the lengthy impact statement process before authorizing an increase in the price of goods. His doubt that it was Congress' intent in enacting the ESA to have its executive arm thus rendered limp and ineffectual was reinforced by "the fact that [Congress] freed the Commission of the normal requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and limited the powers of the courts to issue injunctive relief." Id. at 1242 (footnotes omitted). Without holding that the Price Commission was exempt from § 102(2)(C) of NEPA, Judge Weinfeld ruled that the issue" [posed] a substantial initial barrier to plaintiffs' success upon the trial." Id. For this and other reasons, plaintiffs were denied preliminary injunctive relief.
The reasoning of the Cohen case was adopted by the District Court for the District of Columbia in Gulf Oil Corp. v. Simon, 373 F. Supp. 1102 (D.D.C.), aff'd, 502 F.2d 1154 (T.E.C.A. 1974). In that case the plaintiff oil company sought to set aside certain Federal Energy Office ("FEO") regulations promulgated pursuant to the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973 ("Allocation Act") again on the ground that the agency had not prepared an EIS in connection therewith. Based upon the fact that the FEO was required to promulgate the regulations within fifteen days after the passage of the Allocation Act, 15 U.S.C. § 753(a), the court found an "inherent tension between NEPA and the Allocation Act," at least with respect to the regulations at issue. 373 F. Supp. at 1105. The court resolved the conflict by concluding that an EIS was not required in this instance.
Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Assoc., 426 U.S. 776, 96 S. Ct. 2430, 49 L. Ed. 2d 205, 44 U.S.L.W. 4954 (U.S. June 24, 1976), did not involve the kind of "emergency" legislation found in Cohen and Gulf Oil; instead, a specific statutory section making time of the essence created "an irreconcilable and fundamental conflict" with § 102(2)(C) of NEPA. Id. at 4957. The statute construed was the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act ("Disclosure Act"), 15 U.S.C.§ 1701 et seq., which requires land developers to file with the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") a statement of record containing information necessary for the protection of purchasers. In order to shield developers from costly delays resulting from the filing requirement, the Act provides that the statement automatically becomes effective on the thirtieth day after filing, unless the Secretary of HUD finds it inadequate. When petitioner Flint Ridge filed a statement of record, the respondents requested that HUD prepare an EIS before permitting the statement to go into effect. When HUD refused, the Scenic Rivers Assoc. brought suit.
The Court found that the Secretary had no discretion to suspend the statement's effective date for any reason other than inadequacy. It followed that § 102(2)(C) was inapplicable because the Secretary could not, consistent with her duties under the Disclosure Act, satisfy the NEPA impact statement requirement.
The other group of cases to be examined involves actions taken by the EPA, "an agency whose raison d'etre is the protection of the environment...." International Harvester Co. v. Ruckelshaus, 155 U.S. App. D.C. 411, 478 F.2d 615, 650 n. 130 (D.C. Cir. 1973) (Leventhal, J.). The common thread of the cases holding that the EPA, in the promulgation of rules or the approval of state implementing plans, was not bound by § 102(2)(C) of NEPA was that the decision-making process of the EPA necessarily involved the same environmental considerations as would have been contained in an impact statement. See e.g., Environmental Def. Fund v. EPA, 160 U.S. App. D.C. 123, 489 F.2d 1247, 1257 (D.C. Cir. 1973); Portland Cement Assoc. v. Ruckelshaus, 158 U.S. App. D.C. 308, 486 F.2d 375, 384 (D.C. Cir. 1973); International Harvester Co. v. Ruckelshaus, supra; Appalachian Power Co. v. EPA, 477 F.2d 495, 508 (4th Cir. 1973). In Portland Cement, for example, the Administrator of the EPA promulgated, pursuant to § 111 of the Clean Air Act ("CAA"), rules governing the emission of air pollutants from cement plants. The plaintiff cement company sought judicial review of those standards, claiming that the EPA had not complied with § 102(2)(C) of NEPA. The circuit court's holding that an impact statement was not required was bolstered by certain aspects of the legislative history
and by the relevant case law, but rested on the finding that § 111 of the CAA, "properly construed, requires the functional equivalent of a NEPA impact statement." Id. at 384.
Mindful of the broad sweep of the section's triggering clause as well as the rationale for such an action-forcing provision, courts have refrained from carving out an across-the-board exception for the EPA. In order not to be blinded by the EPA's stated purposes and to ensure that the functional equivalent of an EIS actually takes place, the courts have chosen, instead, to create exceptions on a case-by-case basis. See e.g., Portland Cement Assoc. v. Ruckelshaus, 486 F.2d 375, 380-84 (D.C. Cir. 1973), and authorities cited therein. But see Buckeye Power, Inc. v. EPA, 481 F.2d 162, 173-74 (6th Cir. 1973); Duquesne Light Co. v. EPA, 481 F.2d 1, 9 (3d Cir. 1973).
The situations presented by the above two groups of cases are clearly distinguishable from the instant suit. Contrary to the Commission's arguments, the FTC's enforcement of the antitrust laws by way of administrative adjudicatory proceedings does not require the same degree of dispatch as does the implementation of the legislation involved in Cohen, Gulf Oil and Flint Ridge. Antitrust litigation usually is painfully slow and the Exxon action promises to be no exception. Indeed, the plaintiffs noted that, at the end of 1974, the Commission projected a trial date of January 1978, more than four years after the commencement of the proceeding.
Nor do the opportunities for environmental consideration in an FTC enforcement proceeding even approach "the functional equivalent of a NEPA impact statement," Portland Cement Assoc. v. Ruckelshaus, 486 F.2d at 384, such that literal compliance with § 102(2)(C) might be labeled "a legalism carried to the extreme," International Harvester Co. v. Ruckelshaus, 478 F.2d at 650 n. 130. In contrast to the procedures undertaken by the EPA in cases holding certain EPA actions exempt from NEPA, there are no FTC regulations mandating consideration of the environmental implications of Commission enforcement proceedings. The FTC argues that respondents may advance their environmental claims at the remedy stage of the proceedings, but this would not be equivalent to compliance with § 102(2)(C). Functional compliance with the impact statement process would require the FTC's consideration of environmental consequences at a time when it could make a difference - prior to the commencement of the proceedings. See notes 15-16 and accompanying text, supra.
Accordingly, this Court disagrees with the FTC's interpretation of § 102(2)(C) of NEPA as embodied in § 1.82(d) of the Commission's Rules of Practice and today holds that FTC enforcement proceedings are federal actions subject to § 102(2)(C) of NEPA "when their scope and impact on the environment are significant."
In so doing, the Court is cognizant that its decision runs counter to the opinions of the Council on Environmental Quality ("CEQ") and apparently the only case to have considered the precise issue, Gifford-Hill & Co., Inc. v. FTC 173 U.S. App. D.C. 135, 523 F.2d 730, 733 n. 7 (D.C. Cir. 1975) (per curiam), aff'g, 389 F. Supp. 167 (D.D.C. 1974).
The CEQ was established pursuant to Title II of NEPA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4341-47, and is charged with, inter alia, studying the activities of the federal agencies as they relate to NEPA. Pursuant to that authority, as well as § 203(d) of the Environmental Quality Improvement Act of 1970, 42 U.S.C. § 4372(d) and § 3(a), (h) of Executive Order 11514, March 5, 1970, 35 Fed. Reg. 4247 (42 U.S.C. § 4321, at 413); see Warm Springs Dam Task Force v. Gribble, 417 U.S. 1301, 1309-10, 41 L. Ed. 2d 654, 94 S. Ct. 2542 (Douglas, J. as Circuit Justice), the CEQ issued an Advisory Memorandum on the "Application of the National Environmental Policy Act to Enforcement of the Anti-Trust Laws by the Federal Trade Commission" ("Advisory Memorandum").
Accordingly, the Council's opinions should not be lightly disregarded. EDF v. TVA, 468 F.2d 1164, 1177-78 (6th Cir. 1972).
The CEQ concluded in its Advisory Memorandum that the environmental impact process was inapplicable to FTC antitrust proceedings and that, therefore, § 1.82(d) of the Commission's Rules of Practice was consistent with NEPA. That conclusion stemmed from the Council's rejection of what it articulated as the two possible rationales for holding otherwise:
First an impact statement should be required to determine whether a statutory prohibition should be condoned, or allowed to continue, because of the potential environmental harm from remedying the violation. Or second, an impact statement should be required because alternative solutions exist to remedy the alleged violation, and the choice among these alternative solutions should depend, at least in part, on a detailed study of their environmental implications.
Advisory Memorandum at 19.
The CEQ rejected the first rationale because, in its view, the impact statement process would impede enforcement of the antitrust laws through delays, consumption of resources and heavy imbalance in the elements of prosecutorial discretion. The Council recognized that the delay and increased cost of administrative action occasioned by compliance with § 102(2)(C) was not in and of itself sufficient justification for an exception, but deemed this inconvenience "particularly important in certain law enforcement situations, where the government must be able to negotiate and to act quickly," id. at 20. The need for prompt action in antitrust prosecutions, which premise itself may be questioned,
however, does not qualify as a statutory mandate so as to render the dictates of NEPA inconsistent with superceding statutory authority. Compare Flint Ridge Dev. Co. v. Scenic Rivers Assoc., 426 U.S. 776, 96 S. Ct. 2430, 49 L. Ed. 2d 205, 44 U.S.L.W. 4954 (U.S. June 24, 1976); Gulf Oil Corp. v. Simon, 373 F. Supp. 1102 (D.D.C.), aff'd, 502 F.2d 1154 (T.E.C.A. 1974); Cohen v. Price Comm'n, 337 F. Supp. 1236 (S.D.N.Y. 1972) (Weinfeld, J.). And the law is clear that, absent a clash of statutory authority, increased cost or delay does not excuse the impact statement requirement. See Natural Resources Def. Council, Inc. v. United States Nuclear Reg. Comm'n, 539 F.2d 824, 843 (2d Cir. 1976); Greene County Planning Bd. v. FPC, 455 F.2d 412, 422-23 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 849, 34 L. Ed. 2d 90, 93 S. Ct. 56 (1972); Calvert Cliffs' Coordinating Comm. v. United States Atomic Energy Comm'n, 146 U.S. App. D.C. 33, 449 F.2d 1109, 1128 (D.C. Cir. 1971). In Greene County, supra at 422-23, Chief Judge Kaufman stated:
Fully recognizing that delay unfortunately is incident to our mandate and [the Power Authority of the State of New York's] claim that the Blenheim-Gilboa Project is a vitally needed power facility, we can only add our voice to that of the District of Columbia Circuit in Calvert Cliff's: Delay is a concomitant of the implementation of the procedures prescribed by NEPA, and the spectre of a power crisis "must not be used to create a blackout of environmental consideration in the agency review process." 449 F.2d at 1122.
Similarly, the Court finds unpersuasive the CEQ's argument that application of § 102(2)(C) to enforcement proceedings would create an imbalance in agency decision-making. Prosecutorial discretion involves a complex mix of discrete factors; after the passage of NEPA, the addition of the "environmental" ingredient of course changed the composition of the mix but did not eliminate any of the other factors. The fact that this "environmental" ingredient is the product of a more lengthy and formal process does not necessarily give it the dominating effect feared by the CEQ.
The CEQ also contends that compliance with § 102(2)(C) of NEPA would cause unproductive litigation because, "[in] many, if not most, cases, the proposed defendant would find it in his best interest to litigate whether an impact statement should be prepared, and if one was prepared, the adequacy of the agency's environmental analysis." Advisory Memorandum at 21-22. Recognizing that the possibility of litigation by a party adversely affected by agency action is a by-product of the section, the Council nonetheless argued that in antitrust enforcement proceedings "this incentive to sue would lie with the party able to structure, at least in a divestiture case, the environmental consequences that might result from the divestiture." Id. at 22.
Without regard to the validity of this argument in a proper case, it is simply inapposite here. The environmental consequences of the proposed relief in Exxon will occur if the FTC is successful in attaining the remedies it seeks. The environment will be affected by virtue of the administrative order, not independent actions undertaken by the Exxon respondents.
In rejecting the second rationale for the applicability of § 102(2)(C) to FTC enforcement proceedings, the CEQ found of great significance the fact that "many of the objectives underlying the impact statement process will frequently be achieved in a law enforcement adjudicatory proceeding, even without a formal requirement for an impact statement." Id. at 23. This conclusion seems to be based upon two propositions of doubtful validity: (1) that the FTC voluntarily will consider the environmental consequences of its actions; and (2) that an environmental analysis filed by respondents at the remedy stage of an enforcement action will contribute significantly to the formulation of an ultimate remedy.
The applicability of the Council's first postulate is severely undercut by the language of § 102(2)(C) - the "action-forcing" provision of NEPA - and the reasons for its addition to the Act. The difference between the general directives of § 101 of NEPA and the specific mandates of § 102 was articulated by Judge Wright:
Unlike the substantive duties of Section 101(b), which require agencies to "use all practicable means consistent with other essential considerations," the procedural duties of Section 102 must be fulfilled to the "fullest extent possible." This contrast, in itself, is revealing. But the dispositive factor in our interpretation is the expressed views of the Senate and House conferees who wrote the "fullest extent possible" language into NEPA. They stated:
"... [The] language in section 102 is intended to assure that all agencies of the Federal Government shall comply with the directives set out in said section 'to the fullest extent possible' under their statutory authorizations and that no agency shall utilize an excessively narrow construction of its existing statutory authorizations to avoid compliance."
Calvert Cliffs', supra, 449 F.2d at 1114-15 (footnotes omitted) (emphasis added); see note 20, supra. The effectiveness of NEPA was not left to the vagaries of voluntary compliance.
The CEQ's second premise also must fall. The Council itself has recognized the importance of preparing and circulating draft environmental impact statements "early enough in the agency review process before an action is taken in order to permit meaningful consideration of the environmental issues involved." Greene County Planning Bd. v. FTC, supra, 455 F.2d at 421, quoting 36 Fed. Reg. 7724 (April 23, 1971). This Court already has noted that at the relief stage of an enforcement proceeding there is too great a tendency to accept as inevitable adverse environmental consequences, thereby nullifying their input into the decision-making process.
Moreover, without being subject to the dictates of § 102(2)(C), there is a danger that the Commission will wrongly assume that enforcement proceedings are exempt as well from the more general directives of NEPA. Under such circumstances, the FTC will have no incentive to heed the respondents' warnings concerning the environment, assuming that its sole mission is to enforce the antitrust laws, and the very purpose of NEPA will have been defeated.
Wary that the federal agencies would not implement the policies of NEPA on their own, Congress inserted an "action-forcing" provision into the Act. Viewed in this light, the CEQ's arguments against its applicability to FTC enforcement proceedings seem naive at best. The weight attached to the CEQ's opinion must not override the fulfillment of judicial responsibility "to see that important legislative purposes, heralded in the halls of Congress, are not lost or misdirected in the vast hallways of the federal bureaucracy." Calvert Cliffs', supra, 449 F.2d at 1111.
The Court recognizes that its ruling today may signal an occasional decision not to prosecute antitrust violators for the sake of preserving our environment. It must be remembered, however, that the decision whether to go forward notwithstanding adverse environmental impact rests with the Commission. It is their obligation, not the Court's, to weigh alternatives. In the rare case where the FTC determines that the severity of the offense does not justify the environmental cost of remedying it,
no doubt we all will be better off bearing with the noncompetitive effects rather than paying for competition with our national resources. Federal agencies often have to choose from among evils. NEPA was designed to inject environmental consequences into that equation.
Accordingly, § 1.82(d) of the FTC's Rules of Practice, which purports to withdraw a substantial part of the Commission's activities from the scope of § 102(2)(C) of NEPA, is hereby declared null and void. Additionally, since the relief proposed in Exxon would operate to "restructure the petroleum industry and alter the manner in which oil, a depletable natural resource,
is produced, distributed and used,"
the Court finds that Exxon is a "major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment" as that phrase is used in § 102(2)(C) of NEPA.
The FTC does not really dispute this. Pursuant to this grant of summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, the Commission is hereby ordered immediately to begin compliance with the section's mandate by preparing a draft environmental impact statement.