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ALLIED-SIGNAL, INC. v. LUJAN

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


February 7, 1990

ALLIED-SIGNAL, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
MANUEL LUJAN, JR., Defendant

The opinion of the court was delivered by: SMITH

ORDER

 FERN M. SMITH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Plaintiff, Allied-Signal, Inc., filed this action for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, charging that the Navy and the Department of the Interior ("government" or "federal defendants") violated the Endangered Species Act ("ESA") when they designed the Remedial Action Plan aimed at cleaning up hazardous waste at the Concord Naval Station. *fn1" Specifically, plaintiff claims that the federal defendants' plan to drain a marsh (parcel 572) on the affected property will result in the killing of all the salt-marsh harvest mice currently residing there. (The salt-marsh harvest mouse is on the Endangered Species List.) *fn2"

 Plaintiff is refreshingly candid about its motivations. Dispensing with any rhetoric about its deep feeling for the salt-marsh harvest mouse, plaintiff admits that its interest in the matter of the mouse is purely pecuniary. Plaintiff argues as follows: If the federal defendants had complied with the ESA, they could not have come up with this particular remedial action plan. A remedial action plan that does not include excavation of the marsh would both comply with the ESA and be cheaper to implement. Since plaintiff may be held liable for some of the costs of effecting the remedial plan, plaintiff can save itself some money by insisting that defendants comply with the ESA.

 Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that plaintiff lacks standing to bring this action under the Endangered Species Act.

 Standing

 The doctrine of standing encompasses two sets of principles: constitutional and prudential. Constitutional standing requirements must be satisfied in every federal case, without exception. The Article III "cases and controversies" limitation on federal court jurisdiction requires the party who invokes the Court's authority to show (1) actual or threatened injury (2) suffered as a result of the allegedly illegal conduct of the defendant, which (3) fairly can be traced to the challenged action and (4) is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision. Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 472, 70 L. Ed. 2d 700, 102 S. Ct. 752 (1982).

 Prudential standing involves a different set of principles and requirements, most notably, for our purposes, the condition that plaintiff's complaint fall within the "zone of interests" to be protected or regulated by the statute or constitutional guarantee in question. Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 464. Unlike the Article III requirements, prudential limitations on standing are subject to elimination by Congress. Center for Auto Safety v. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 253 U.S. App. D.C. 336, 793 F.2d 1322, 1335 (D.C.Cir.1986).

 Plaintiff argues that Congress intended to make standing under the ESA coterminous with constitutional standing requirements. That intent, argues plaintiff, eliminates prudential principles from consideration in determining standing under the ESA. Because the Court concludes that plaintiff fails to meet the standing requirements imposed by the Constitution, the issue of whether prudential standing is necessary under the ESA is not addressed. *fn3"

 Plaintiff's claim fails to meet Article III standards in three ways: First, plaintiff's alleged injury, increased costs (for which it may or may not be held liable) due to implementation of a clean-up plan which allegedly harms the mouse, is not "harm suffered as a result of the allegedly illegal conduct of the defendant." Secondly, plaintiff's harm cannot be "fairly traced to the challenged action." See Valley Forge, 454 U.S. at 472. Plaintiff claims that compliance with the ESA would result in less costly clean-up of the contaminated site; but violation of the ESA is not what makes plaintiff potentially liable for the clean-up costs, nor is the alleged harm to the mouse in itself the cause of any injury to plaintiff. In sum, plaintiff's injury, to the extent that one may exist, is not proximately caused by defendant's alleged violation of the ESA. *fn4"

 Finally, the remedy plaintiff seeks -- an order directing defendants to comply with the ESA -- would not necessarily redress plaintiff's alleged injury. For instance, an alternative remedial plan, one which did not call for excavation of the marsh, and thus avoided all harm to the mouse, might be even more expensive to execute, thus resulting in even greater "injury" to plaintiff. (If presented with that option, plaintiff presumably would sacrifice the mouse.)

 For the reasons discussed above, plaintiff lacks standing to bring this action under the Endangered Species Act. Accordingly, defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED.

 SO ORDERED.

 DATED: February 7, 1990


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