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Valley Citizens for a Safe Env't v. Aldridge

Citation: 20 ELR 20185
No. No. 88-2063, 886 F.2d 458/(1st Cir., 09/28/1989) Aff'd

The court holds that the Air Force's environmental impact statement (EIS) for its transfer of 16 airplanes from Delaware to Massachusetts is adequate. The court first holds that the EIS adequately discussed alternatives to the proposed move. The Air Force properly excluded from consideration five other possible bases on nonenvironmental grounds. During public comment on the draft EIS, none of the comments suggested that these alternatives needed to be more closely studied. Moreover, the measure of what is a reasonable discussion of alternatives in an EIS depends on the action proposed; the more environmentally threatening the proposal, the more thorough is the discussion required. The court next holds that the EIS adequately considered increased air pollution from the proposed move. Although the airplanes moved would emit nitrous oxide not accounted for in the EIS, the EIS's inaccuracies were not significant. The court observes that probably 50 to 75 tons of nitrous oxide emissions per year were not described in the EIS. Although this is a large error, the local region's yearly total emissions from all sources is over 34,000 tons. Moreover, the region is in attainment under the Clean Air Act for nitrous oxides, and the proposed move would reude emissions for several other pollutants for which the region is not in attainment. The Massachusetts state government did not object to similar nitrous oxide emissions under related proposals in the EIS and noise, not air pollution, is the basic environmental problem for the proposed move.

Finally, the court holds that the EIS adequately considers increased noise impacts from the proposed move. The Air Force used standard technology to gauge the noise, and comments on the draft EIS did not take issue with it. The EIS shows the Air Force's awareness of the noise problem, and agencies have discretion to determine proper testing methods.

[An earlier opinion in this case appears at 19 ELR 20497.]

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellant
Cristobal Bonifaz
48 N. Pleasant St., Rm. 304, Amherst MA 01002
(413) 253-5626

Counsel for Defendants-Appellees
Michael P. Healy
Land and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 7611, Ben Franklin Station, Washington DC 20044
(202) 633-2757

Before BREYER, ALDRICH and TORRUELLA, Circuit Judges.