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Ridley, Township of v. Blanchette

Citation: 7 ELR 20184
No. No. 74-2113, 421 F. Supp. 435/(E.D. Pa., 12/17/1976)

The court grants defendants' motion for summary judgment in an action to enjoin use of a railroad crossover built as a demonstration project by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Plaintiffs, residents of the area where the crossover was built and the township itself, originally sought a preliminary injunction against construction of the crossover, built between existing tracks, which was intended to improve service and increase the efficiency of commuter rail traffic.

The court finds that plaintiffs have standing under both prongs of the test requiring a personal injury within the zone of interests to be protected. United States v. SCRAP, 412 U.S. 669, 3 ELR 20536 (1973), Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 2 ELR 20192 (1972). In addition, plaintiffs have standing to assert a violation of the Urban Mass Transportation Act (UMTA), 49 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq., when an agency takes an illegal action,Harmon v. Brucker, 355 U.S. 579 (1958), and a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Minnesota Public Interest Research Group v. Butz, 498 F.2d 1314, 4 ELR 20700 (8th Cir. 1974). Plaintiffs alleged that the notice and hearing provisions of UMTA, 49 U.S.C. § 1602(d), were ignored. The court, however, makes the distinction that § 1602(d) applies only to grants or loans to the states, where the care for procedural protection must be more strict. The Secane crossover is financed as a demonstration project under § 1605, and the notice and hearing requirements do not apply since the project is supervised by DOT. Because the project comes under § 1605, plaintiffs' additional claim that written findings under § 1610 are required is inapplicable because § 1610 refers only to § 1602(d) projects.

Plaintiffs additionally argued that defendants were required to file an environmental impact statement (EIS) under NEPA because the Secane crossover was a "major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." The court first concludes that the standard of review for DOT's decision not to file an EIS is one of "reasonableness," citing Council on Environmental Quality guidelines, 40 C.F.R. pt. 1500, ELR 46003, and the standard applied in Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 1 ELR 20110 (1971). The court finds that the project involves 375 feet of track to be used by only four trains per day (out of 42 daily trains that use the line) and will cost only $168,973. Thus, the project is not "major," defining that term as one of a reasonable differentiation "between projects which do not involve sufficiently serious effects to justify the costs of completing an impact statement, and those projects with potential effects which appear to offset the costs in time and resources of preparing a statement." 421 F. Supp. at 446. See San Francisco Tommorrow v. Romney, 472 F.2d 1021, 3 ELR 20124 (9th Cir. 1973); Julis v. City of Cedar Rapids, 349 F. Supp. 88, 3 ELR 20033 (N.D. Iowa 1972); NRDC v. Grant, 341 F. Supp. 356, 2 ELR 20185 (E.D.N.C. 1972). In addition, the court concludes that the agency determination denying that the crossover has a "significant environmental impact" is a reasonable one and not, therefore, to be disturbed. See Save Our Ten Acres v. Kreger, 472 F.2d 463, 3 ELR 20041 (5th Cir. 1973); Citizens for Reid State Park v. Laird, 336 F. Supp. 783, 2 ELR 20122 (D. Me. 1972).

Finally, since the court grants summary judgment against plaintiffs' federal claims, it uses its discretion to dismiss the pendent state claims under the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Act of 1963, Pa. Stat. tit. 66, § 2001 et seq., for lack of federal jurisdiction. United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715 (1966).

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (16 pp. $2.00, ELR Order No. C-1103).

Counsel for Plaintiff
Roger Dale Morris
Park Ave.
Swarthmore PA 19081
(215) 544-8585

R. Paul Lessy
Colonial Bldg.
Chester PA 19016
(215) 872-5414

Counsel for Defendants
Judith Breen Soken
Fein, Criden, Johanson, Dolan & Morrissey, P.C.
1424 Walnut St.
Philadelphia PA 19102
(215) 985-1300

Walter L. Foulke
Drinker, Biddle & Reath
1100 Philadelphia National Bank Bldg.
Broad & Chestnut Sts.
Philadelphia PA 19107
(215) 491-7200

Robert E. J. Curran, U.S. Attorney
Kenneth A. Ritchie, Asst. U.S. Attorney
3310 U.S. Courthouse
Independence Mall West
601 Market St.
Philadelphia PA 19106
(215) 597-2556

Fogel, J.

[OPINION OMITTED BY PUBLISHER IN ORIGINAL SOURCE]