Oral Arguments Oct. 8, 2008
Summers v. Earth Island Institute (07-463)
Earth Island Institute and other conservation groups sued the United States Forest Service after it authorized application of regulations 36 C.F.R. 215.4(a) and 36 C.F.R. 215.12(f) to a planned salvage logging project in the Sequoia National Forest. The conservation groups claimed that the regulations, which limit public notice, comment and administrative appeals, were invalid under the Administrative Procedure Act, which protects the ability of the public to appeal administrative actions. The parties settled the dispute over the regulations as they were applied to the salvage logging project, but the conservation groups continued the suit as a direct facial challenge to the regulations themselves. At issue before the Supreme Court in this case is whether judicial review of the regulations was proper, whether the conservation groups established standing and ripeness to challenge the regulations after settling the controversy over the regulations’ application to the specific project, and whether issuing a nationwide injunction was a proper remedy. The outcome of the case will influence federal agencies’ requirements to provide administrative appeals, the ability of the public to challenge administrative actions, and the scope of equitable remedies against improper applications of agency regulations....
This case rests on whether individuals may appeal agency regulations only as they are applied to specific agency actions, or whether individuals may challenge the validity of regulations without linking the challenge to a specific agency project. The Forest Service argues that under the APA, only as-applied regulations may be challenged. The conservation groups, on the other hand, argue that the APA supports direct, facial challenges to agency regulations. The Supreme Court’s decision will affect the rights of individuals to contest unlawful agency regulations and the scope of federal agencies’ responsibilities to provide administrative appeals. The decision will likely clarify the balance between agencies’ autonomy and their transparency toward the public, which will have ramifications for advocacy groups, industry members, and federal agencies.