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Otter v. Jewell

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 5, 2017

C.L. "BUTCH" OTTER, in his official Capacity as Governor of the State of Idaho, et al ., Plaintiffs,
v.
S.M.R. JEWELL, in her official Capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, et al ., Federal Defendants THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY, et al ., Intervenor-Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Emmet G. Sullivan, United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Butch Otter, in his official capacity as the Governor of Idaho, and the Idaho State Legislature, bring this action pursuant to Section 702 of Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), seeking review of certain final agency decisions of the federal defendants, [1] contending that they are contrary to the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq., the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (“FLPMA”), 43 U.S.C. §§ 1701 et seq., and the National Forest Management Act (“NFMA”), 16 U.S.C. § 1600 et seq. See Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶ 10.

         Pending before the Court are the parties' motion and cross-motions for summary judgment, in which the federal defendants argue, among other things, that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because plaintiffs do not have standing to bring their claims pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution. Upon consideration of the motion and cross-motions, the responses and replies thereto, the applicable law, and for the reasons stated below, the Court concludes that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims, and therefore cannot reach the merits of those claims, because plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden of demonstrating that they have suffered an injury-in-fact as a result of the agency action.[2]Therefore, plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is DENIED, federal defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment is GRANTED, and intervenor-defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment is DENIED as moot.[3]

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case is before this Court as related to the Court-approved agreements between environmental advocacy groups and the Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) in 2010 to settle multi-district litigation. See In re ESA Section 4 Deadline Litig.-MDL No. 2156, Misc. Action No. 10-377 (D.D.C.2010). The agreements require FWS to determine by certain deadlines whether to list a number of species as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), or find that listing these species is not warranted. Misc. Action No. 10-377, ECF No. 42. Relevant to the case currently before the Court, FWS was required to make a listing decision regarding the Sage-Grouse by September 30, 2015. Misc. Action No. 10-377, ECF No. 56.

         In anticipation of the need to make that decision, the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) and the Forest Service “undertook a land use planning effort of unprecedented scope [that] was designed to amend or revise the existing regulatory mechanisms-federal land use plans-to provide enforceable conservation measures and management objectives to protect and improve Sage-Grouse habitat.” Federal Defs.' Combined Mem. in Supp. of Cross-Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 56 at 16-17. The planning effort, which involved federal land in ten western states, spanned four years and included the participation of members of the public and numerous state and federal entities, including the State of Idaho. Id. at 17; Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Prelim. Inj., ECF No. 15-1 at 17-18. Idaho's participation included, among other things, the submission of one of the alternative plans for consideration by BLM and the Forest Service. Federal Defs.' Combined Mem. in Supp. of Cross-Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 56 at 19; Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Prelim. Inj., ECF No. 15-1 at 18-19, 21-22. That plan was not adopted as the final agency decision although federal defendants state that several aspects of the Idaho plan were included in the final agency decision. Federal Defs.' Combined Mem. in Supp. of Cross-Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 56 at 25. Plaintiffs ask this Court to set aside, vacate, and remand the final decision, specifically the land use plan amendment and supporting Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) for the Idaho and Southwestern Montana sub-region (“IDMT Plan” or “plan”), [4] as contrary to law.

         II. Standard of Review

         “Summary judgment is the proper mechanism for deciding, as a matter of law, whether an agency action is supported by the administrative record and consistent with the APA standard of review, which requires a reviewing court to ‘hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions found to be . . . arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.” UPMC v. Sebelius, 793 F.Supp.2d 62, 67 (D.D.C.2011). Due to the limited role of a court in reviewing the administrative record, the typical summary judgment standards set forth in Rule 56(c) are not applicable. Stuttering Found. of America v. Springer, 498 F.Supp.2d 203, 207 (D.D.C.2007)(internal citation omitted). Rather, “[u]nder the APA, it is the role of the agency to resolve factual issues to arrive at a decision that is supported by the administrative record, whereas ‘the function of the district court is to determine whether or not as a matter of law the evidence in the administrative record permitted the agency to make the decision it did.'” Id. (quoting Occidental Eng'g Co. v. INS, 753 F.2d 766, 769-70 (9th Cir.1985)). A reviewing court will “hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions found to be . . . arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.” Ludlow v. Mabus, 793 F.Supp.2d 352, 354 (D.D.C.2001) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A)).

         III. Analysis

         A. Standing

         “Article III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of the federal courts to ‘Cases' and ‘Controversies.'” Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, 134 S.Ct. 2334, 2341 (2014) (quoting U.S. Const., art. III, § 2). “‘One element of the case-or-controversy requirement' is that plaintiffs ‘must establish that they have standing to sue.'” Clapper v. Amnesty Int'l USA, 133 S.Ct. 1138, 1146 (2013) (quoting Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811, 818 (1997)). The standing requirement “serves to prevent the judicial process from being used to usurp the powers of the political branches.” Id. To establish standing, “a plaintiff must show (1) an ‘injury in fact, ' (2) a sufficient ‘causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, ' and (3) a ‘likel[ihood]' that the injury ‘will be redressed by a favorable decision.'” Susan B. Anthony List, 134 S.Ct. at 2341 (quoting Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)). The injury-in-fact requirement is only satisfied when an injury is “‘concrete and particularized' and ‘actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.'” Id. (quoting Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560).

         “The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing these elements.” Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561 (internal citations omitted). “Since they are not mere pleading requirements but rather an indispensable part of the plaintiff's case, each element must be supported in the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, i.e., with the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive stages of the litigation.” Id. “In response to a summary judgment motion . . . the plaintiff . . . must set forth by affidavit or other evidence specific facts, Fed.Rule Civ.Proc. 56(e), which for purposes of the summary judgment motion will be taken to be true.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). “[A]t summary judgment a court will not ‘presume' the missing facts necessary to establish an element of standing.” Swanson Group Mfg. LLC v. Jewell, 790 F.3d 235, 240 (D.C.Cir.2015) (quoting Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 889 (1990)).

         Although “states are ‘entitled to special solicitude in our standing analysis' . . . . [they are not] exempt from the burden of establishing a concrete and particularized injury in fact.” Coal. for Responsible Regulation Inc. v. EPA, 684 F.3d 102, 148 (D.C.Cir.2012)(quoting Massachusetts v. E.P.A., 549 U.S. 497, 522 (2007)); see also State of West Virginia v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 145 F.Supp.3d 94, 101 (2015)(reasoning that states “too must allege a cognizable injury-in-fact to establish standing”).

         Here, federal defendants dispute that plaintiffs have satisfied the injury-in-fact requirement necessary to ...


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