Before BAZELON, McGOWAN and ROBB, Circuit Judges.
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT
NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, INC.; ENVIRONMENTAL
al ., APPELLEES, CHACO ENERGY COMPANY, APPELLANTS
CROSS-APPELLEES; NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, INC.;
Land Management of the Department of Interior, et al ., APPELLEES; NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, INC.;
Land Management of the Department of Interior, et al ., APPELLEES
Nos. 78-1757, 78-1787, 78-1842 1979.CDC.208
Date Decided: November 9, 1979; As Amended January 23, 1980.
Appeal From The United States District Court For The District of Columbia (D.C. Civil 75-0313).
The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund brought this suit for a declaratory judgment empowering (the Secretary of Interior (the Secretary) to reject coal mining lease applications on environmental grounds, even when an applicant has otherwise fulfilled the requirements for a lease under Section 2(b) of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 ("the Act").1 Two power companies, Utah Power and Light Co. (Utah Power) and Chaco Energy Co. (Chaco), intervened to support the Department's position that the Secretary obtains no such discretion either under the Act or the National Environmental Policy Act .2 The district court agreed,3 and on examination of the statutory framework and the effect of NEPA, we affirm. I. BACKGROUND
Prior to 1920, federal lands containing coal and other mineral deposits were sold to private owners and states in accord with the general policy to dispose of land in the public domain. As protection of energy sources and of the environment became pressing public issues during this century, Congress and the Department of Interior (the Department) developed ...