An environmental assessment of a 5,000-acre federal land exchange in Las Vegas did not sufficiently address the question of the cumulative air-quality impacts of developing the property, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. The court held that federal officials may be required to prepare an environmental impact statement. The Bureau of Land Management owns most of the land surrounding Las Vegas. The federal agency often trades prime parcels to real estate developers in exchange for more remote property with higher environmental value. Activist Robert Hall, who claims he has developed a lung sensitivity to air and dust pollution since moving to the area, sued the BLM in 1997 over an exchange of almost 5,000 acres of land in the Las Vegas Valley to the Del Webb development corporation, which has subsequently proposed constructing 11,000 homes on the property. The BLM prepared an environmental assessment on the property that acknowledged the Las Vegas Valley is a federal air quality non-attainment area, but concluded that the Del Webb project would have no significant impact on air quality. U.S. District Court Judge Lloyd George ruled in favor of the BLM on all counts. On appeal, however, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit overturned Judge George on some points, including the cumulative impact point. The panel ruled that, while the project-specific emissions alone were not "sufficient" and therefore did not rise to the level of requiring an EIS, the BLM might not have dealt with cumulative impacts. The court said that even though briefs filed by Hall, who represented himself in court, were unclear, the BLM had not sufficiently addressed the environmental impact of transferring into private hands 57,000 acres in the Las Vegas area that have been designated for land exchange. In granting summary judgment, the panel said, "There is no discussion by the district court of the potential emissions from the other 57,000 acres of land ‘identified for disposal' … [W]e are not convinced that the district court fully considered Hall's environmental impacts argument." Regarding a lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the Ninth Circuit found that instead of challenging the environmental assessment and the Finding of No Significant Impact, Hall should have challenged the Environmental Protection Agency's ruling that land exchanges are exempt from Clean Air Act legal challenges under the "conformity" provisions of the law. The court agreed with Judge George that Hall should have filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, as the exemption is a nationally applicable regulation. However, the Ninth Circuit panel did find that Hall has standing to sue because his discomfort "is not too remote" from the project's potential impacts to eliminate him as a plaintiff. The Case: Hall v. Norton, No. 99-16153, 01 C.D.O.S. 8053. Filed September 12, 2001. The Lawyers: Plaintiff Robert Hall represented himself. For Bureau of Land Management: Andrew M. Mergen, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.