MEIC v. Stone-Manning

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 09-11-2014
  • Case #: 13-35107
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge O'Scannlain for the Court; Circuit Judges Kleinfeld and Berzon
  • Full Text Opinion

A plaintiff cannot establish standing under the firm prediction rule unless they are able to show that the approval of an application is “inevitable” or “nearly certain” to occur.

Plaintiffs, Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club (collectively, “MEIC”) bring suit against Tracy Stone-Manning, Director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for injunctive relief to prevent Stone-Manning from approving a pending application for surface coal mining. MEIC relies on a provision in the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (“SMCRA”), 30 U.S.C §§1201-1328, which requires a cumulative hydrologic impact assessment before an application for surface coal mining is approved. The district court granted Stone-Manning’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The panel upholds the district court ruling on standing because plaintiffs are unable to show an “actual” injury. MEIC alleges that Stone-Manning and her predecessors approved applications in the past without a hydrologic assessment, but did not show this made the pending application more likely to be approved. Imminent injury exists if there is a substantial risk of injury, but plaintiffs could not show a substantial risk that the application would be approved. The panel agreed with the district court that plaintiffs’ claim lacked ripeness for similar reasons. The alleged injury may never materialize and thus there is not yet a case. The panel rejected MEIC’s attempt to invoke the firm prediction rule. The firm prediction rule has been upheld in the 9th circuit, but does not apply in this case because the plaintiff was unable to show that the application being approved was “inevitable” or that it was “nearly certain” to occur. AFFIRMED

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