United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division
Morris, United States District Court Judge
filed their Complaint in CV-17-30-GF-BMM on March 29, 2017.
(Doc. 1.) The Court granted the State of Wyoming's Motion
to Intervene (Doc. 25) on May 30, 2017. (Doc. 30.) The Court
granted the parties' Joint Motion to Consolidate Cases
(Doc. 33) on June 2, 2017. (Doc. 34.) The Court granted
National Mining Association's Motion to Intervene (Doc.
37) on July 10, 2017. (Doc. 41.) The Court granted the State
of Montana's Motion to Intervene (Doc. 39) on July 10,
2017. (Doc. 42.)
Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Summary Judgement on July
27, 2018. (Doc. 115.) Organizational Plaintiffs filed their
Motion for Summary Judgment on July 27, 2018. (Doc. 117.)
Federal Defendants filed their Cross Motion for Summary
Judgment on September 7, 2018. (Doc. 123.) State Defendants
filed their Cross Motion for Summary Judgment on September
19, 2018. (Doc. 125.) National Mining Association filed its
Cross Motion for Summary Judgment on September 18, 2018.
Court held a hearing on the motions on December 13, 2018.
(Doc. 138.) The Court issued its Order on the parties'
motions for summary judgment on April 19, 2019. (Doc. 141.)
The Court determined that Plaintiffs demonstrated that they
possess standing to challenge the Zinke Order. Plaintiffs
further demonstrated that their claims were ripe for review.
The Court determined that the Zinke Order met the
requirements for final agency action under the APA sufficient
to trigger the NEPA process. The Court declined to direct
Federal Defendants to prepare a PEIS, or supplement the PEIS.
Federal Defendants released a 35-page Draft EA on May 22,
2019. Federal Defendants assert that the Draft EA examined
the impacts of the Zinke Order as required by NEPA.
Court directed the parties to confer in good faith to attempt
to reach an agreement regarding potential remedies. The
parties met in good faith, but were unable to reach an
agreement as to remedies. The parties filed separate
proposals regarding remedies for the Court's review.
argue that the remedy of vacatur constitutes the standard
remedy when an APA violation occurs. (Doc. 147 at 9.)
Plaintiffs assert that a return to the status quo before the
Zinke Order will be appropriate. Id. Plaintiffs
argue that Federal Defendants issuance of the Draft EA fails
to overcome the deficiencies identified by the Court.
Id. Plaintiffs contend that Federal Defendants must
initiate and complete a decision-making process on a clean
slate that follows vacatur of the Zinke Order. Id.
argue that the Court should remand the Zinke Order to Federal
Defendants for NEPA review. (Doc. 148 at 3.) Defendants
assert Federal Defendants' ongoing NEPA process should be
allowed to continue. Id. Defendants argue that
Plaintiffs are not entitled to a remedy that goes beyond
Defendants assert that they are diligently determining
whether the Draft EA should lead to the issuance of a Finding
of No Significant Impact (“FONSI”), or the
preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement
(“EIS”). (Doc. 149 at 4.) Federal Defendants
expect to reach this decision by August 5, 2019. Id.
Federal Defendants request that the Court either (1) postpone
a remedy ruling until the agency completes its decision
making, or (2) enter an order allowing the parties twenty-one
days from the completion of the decision making to file
supplemental remedy briefs. Id. at 5. Federal
Defendants ask that a remedy order entered by the Court
should be limited to remand without vacatur. Id.
Defendants do not anticipate approving any leases, other than
ones exempt form the pause and disclosed to Plaintiffs,
before September 1, 2019. (Doc. 149 at 6.) Federal Defendants
are engaged in an ongoing NEPA process. Federal Defendants
anticipate that the decision of whether to prepare a FONSI or
an EIS will be made in early August. A ruling by the Court
based on the Draft EA would constitute a premature ruling.
The Court agrees with Federal Defendants that a postponement
of a remedy ruling constitutes the fair and appropriate
remedy in this case. The Court's postponement of a
remedies ruling does not foreclose Plaintiffs' ability to
challenge the NEPA process after the completion of Federal
Court deems it appropriate to postpone a remedies ruling
until after Federal Defendants' completion of their NEPA
review. The Court's postponement of a remedies ruling
does not foreclose Plaintiffs' ability to challenge the
adequacy of Federal Defendants' NEPA review after its
completion. The parties shall reserve their rights set forth
in the Court's ...