United States v. Students Challenging Regulatory Agency Procedures (SCRAP)
412 U.S. 669 (1973)

  • The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) controlled the rates that railroads could charge to move freight. They changed their rate structure in a way that favored the shipping of raw materials over recycled materials.
  • SCRAP sued for an injunction claiming that the change was in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
    • SCRAP argued that the change made recycled materials less valuable, which made it harder to organize recycling efforts.
  • The Trial Court granted the injunction. The ICC appealed.
    • The ICC argued that SCRAP did not have standing to sue. In generally courts had held that in order to have standing, you have to show that the plaintiff has suffered an actual harm (aka injury-in-fact). Members of SCRAP weren’t involved in the recycling or shipping business, and so they had nothing to lose or gain from litigating.
    • SCRAP argued that they were injured because if there was less recycling more people would simply throw trash in the street and members of SCRAP would be saddened by the aesthetic damage they would be forced to look at.
  • The US Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The US Supreme Court found that SCRAP’s aesthetic injury was enough to establish standing to bring a lawsuit.
    • The Court agreed that SCRAP’s members had “alleged a specific and perceptible harm that distinguished them from other citizens who had not used the natural resources that were claimed to be affected.”
  • In a dissent it was argued that “the alleged injuries are so remote, speculative, and insubstantial in fact that they fail to confer standing.”
  • Until this case, injury-in-fact was generally limited to economic interests. But in this decision the US Supreme Court found that aesthetic interests can be enough to establish standing.
    • This was the high-water mark of standing for public interest groups.
      • Once Justice Scalia was appointed to the US Supreme Court, it became harder to establish standing.
      • See Lujan v. National Wildlife Federal (497 U.S. 871 (1990)).