A mining company had submitted to the United States Forest Service a construction plan for a mining permit on Federal land in the southern Black Hills. After plaintiffs had filed their complaint, alleging among other things that the Forest Service had failed to comply with historic preservation laws with regard to archeological sites affected by the plan, the company withdrew its plan. The court dismissed the case as moot. Plaintiffs sought costs under Rule 54(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
The court held that the decision whether to award costs under Rule 54(d) is within the discretion of the court, which should weigh seven factors in making its decision, among them whether the prosecution of the case benefited the public or the defendants and whether denial of costs would unduly inhibit future challenges to environmental decisions. 526 F. Supp. at 258. The court first found that prosecution of the action benefited the public because the existence of the action drew attention to the archeological sites, which were nominated to the National Register of Historic Places during the pendency of the suit. Id. at 259.
Second, the court held that the lawsuit was of indirect benefit to the defendants because it apprised them that the preservation of archeological sites should be more carefully considered in future preparation and approval of mining plans. Id.
Finally, the court found that denial of costs would unduly inhibit future challenges to environmental decisions. Id. at 259-60.
The court awarded costs against the company but not against the Forest Service, since the agency had no control over the withdrawal of the plan. Id. at 260.
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