Ninth Circuit Upholds BLM’s Decision to Allow Uranium Mine — Idled for Seventeen Years — to Reopen Without a New Plan of Operations or Supplemental NEPA Review

On February 4, 2013, a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel issued a ruling in Center for Biological Diversity v. Salazar holding that a mine idled for seventeen years could restart operations without obtaining a new approval from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or conducting additional environmental review. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling is notable because it clarifies that:

  1. The need for new ancillary permits for an already-approved federal project — even after being idle for seventeen years — does not create a “major Federal action” requiring supplemental environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA);
  2. A mine may be idle for extended periods of time if the mine is maintained in accordance with an interim management plan set forth in a plan of operations; and
  3. There is no provision under the BLM’s surface management regulations (43 CFR subpart 3809) requiring a new plan of operations to restart mining operations following a period of idleness.

To read the article, go to JMBM’s California Land Use Blog, Ninth Circuit Upholds BLM’s Decision to Allow Uranium Mine — Idled for Seventeen Years — to Reopen Without a New Plan of Operations or Supplemental NEPA Review