Document Type


Publication Date

January 2013


Since enactment of environmental legislation in the 1970s, the preliminary injunction standard articulated by the Supreme Court for environmental claims has evolved from general principles to enumerated factors. In Winter v. Natural Resource Defense Council, Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent refinement, the Court endorsed but failed to explain the application of a common four-factor test when it held that the alleged injury to marine mammals was outweighed by the public interest of a well-trained and prepared Navy. While a number of commentators have speculated about Winter’s impact on future environmental preliminary injunctions, this article seeks to more precisely determine Winter’s effect. It does so by providing a quantitative and qualitative analysis of data collected from federal district and circuit courts three years before and three years after Winter.

This data demonstrates that not only has the number of injunctions granted and denied stayed relatively consistent, but most trial courts have not altered their approach to environmental preliminary injunction requests. Instead, they continue to look to their circuit court rather than the U.S. Supreme Court for guidance when reviewing these requests. Several circuit courts have addressed Winter, and apart from the Fourth Circuit, these circuits reconciled Winter with their earlier preliminary injunction standard. Thus, while Winter’s effect is significant in form, it is mild in substance.

Publication Title

Seattle U. L. Rev