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Media Alerts - Sierra Club v. Jewell - D.C. Circuit
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August 26, 2014
  Sierra Club v. Jewell - D.C. Circuit
Headline: D.C. Circuit finds threat to aesthetic enjoyment of neighboring, privately-owned property is sufficient "injury in fact" to confer Article III standing.

Area of Law: Standing; Federal Courts

Issue Presented: Whether environmental and historic preservation groups have Article III standing when their alleged injury is to an aesthetic interest in viewing property that they have no legal right to access.

Brief Summary: Environmental and historic preservation groups brought suit against the Secretary of the Interior after Blair Mountain, West Virginia, site of the largest armed labor conflict in American history, was removed from the National Register of Historic Places. The groups claimed that delisting from the Register would leave the battlefield site, which was privately owned by various mining interests, vulnerable to damage from surface coal mining. They challenged the decision to delist as arbitrary and capricious, and sought vacatur of the decision and relisting of the site. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment against the groups, finding that they could not establish the three requisite components of Article III standing.

A divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed. The court deemed the groups' aesthetic and historical interest in the site cognizable and accepted that surface mining would give rise to a concrete and particularized injury even though the site was privately owned. The court found that appellants' interest did not depend on any legal right to physically walk on the battlefield and that appellants' interest in observing the site from surrounding areas, including public roads, sufficed. Because coal companies have mined in the vicinity of the battlefield using permits that encompass the battlefield, the court found appellants' interest sufficiently imminent. The court noted, in this regard, that the coal companies had objected to listing the battlefield in the National Register, citing their expectation of future mining operations. Finally, the court concluded that appellants could satisfy the causation and redressability requirements because West Virginia mining laws protected properties listed in the Register and there was an adequate possibility that West Virginia regulations would apply to mining permit renewals.

Senior Circuit Judge Sentelle dissented on the basis that Lujan requires that an injury involve an "invasion of a legally protected interest," and appellants had no legally protected aesthetic interest in viewing others' property.

To read the full opinion, please visit http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/i...le/12-5383-1509259.pdf.

Panel: Garland, Srinivasan, and Sentelle

Argument Date: February 6, 2014

Date of Issued Opinion: August 26, 2014

Docket Number: No. 12-5383

Decided: Reversed and remanded

Case Alert Author: Elizabeth Earle Beske

Counsel: Daniel P. Selmi, Aaron S. Isherwood, Peter M. Morgan, Andrea C. Ferster, and Elizabeth S. Merritt for appellants. Katherine J. Barton, Robert G. Dreher, and David C. Shilton for appellees.

Author of Opinion: Judge Srinivasan

Circuit: D.C. Circuit

Case Alert Supervisor: Elizabeth Earle Beske and Ripple Weistling

    Posted By: Ripple Weistling @ 08/26/2014 01:51 PM     DC Circuit  

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