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Missouri ex rel. Missouri-St. Louis Metro. Airport Auth. v. Coleman

Citation: 7 ELR 20457
No. No. 76-1683, 427 F. Supp. 1252/9 ERC 2121/(D.D.C., 02/08/1977)

The court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment in a suit challenging the Transportation Secretary's approval of an application for funds to acquire land for an airport in Illinois. Faced with the need for a new airport to serve the St. Louis metropolitan area, studies were made of Lambert Field in Missouri and a Columbia-Waterloo site in Illinois. Subsequently, the State of Illinois applied for federal funds to finance land acquisition of the Columbia-Waterloo site. The Secretary and approved it, at the same time releasing a final environmental impact statement (EIS) on the Illinois site.

The State of Missouri and certain counties and municipalities in the state sued to enjoin the Secretary's decision and to seek review of the Secretary's decision through discovery. Plaintiffs attacked the administrative procedures that produced the decision and charged that the decision violated provisions of the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970, 49 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq., ELR 41605, the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq., ELR 41009, and Office of Management and Budget Circular A-95, ELR 47001. In its motion for summary judgment, defendant responded that the record upon which the decision was made was complete and that the Secretary acted within his statutory authority.

The court first determines that its standard for reviewing the administrative action is whether the choice was arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 1 ELR 20110 (1971). Plaintiffs, claiming a failure to consider important factors and the possibility of improper influence, sought a "probing, in-depth" review of the decision, but the court holds that the administrative record provides sufficient explanation for the final administrative action taken. Overton Park, supra; Doraiswamy v. Secretary of Labor, No. 74-1847 (D.C. Cir. Nov. 26, 1976).

The court also rejects plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction on the grounds that plaintiffs failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits; the Secretary acted neither arbitrarily nor capriciously nor outside the ambit of his statutory authority in approving the Illinois application. The Secretary did not exceed his authority under the Airport and Airway Development Act because the record indicates that local views and aspects of the airport problem were considered, and there is no provision for local veto if the other authorities in the metropolitan area oppose the airport.Nor was the granting of funds for land acquisition an unauthorized "land banking."

Finally, the court rejects plaintiffs' arguments that the Secretary failed to comply with the requirements of local and environmental review. OMB Circular A-95 merely requires notice that an agency applying for federal assistance notify the state and areawide planning clearinghouse of the intent to apply for assistance, but it does not require that the revised environmental impact statement, without major changes, be recirculated for a second review by local governments before the Secretary can consider the application.

Plaintiffs attacked the adequacy of the final EIS on the grounds that misstatements and deferred questions make clear that the final EIS was not a complete evaluation of the whole project. The court finds that the EIS did not misstate facts about proposed construction of the basic highway system. Regarding the deferral of issues, the National Environmental Policy Act is flexible. Scientists' Institute for Public Information v. AEC, 481 F.2d 1079, 3 ELR 20525 (D.C. Cir. 1973). While there was more than the required "hard look" in the EIS at the environmental consequences, there will be an opportunity for further environmental consideration while it can still have an impact.

For moving papers in this case, see ELR 65413.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (12 pp. $1.50, ELR Order No. C-1122).

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Erwin N. Griswold, L. Welch Pogue, Peter B. Work
Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue
1100 Connecticut Ave., NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 452-5800

Suellen T. Keiner, Bruce J. Terris
1526 18th St., NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 332-1882

Counsel for Defendant
Irwin L. Schroeder, Gary B. Randall
Land & Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 739-2710

Elroy H. Wolff
Sidley & Austin
1730 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 872-1730

Robert B. Donin
Department of Transportation
Washington DC 20590
(202) 426-4000

Robinson, J.

[OPINION OMITTED BY PUBLISHER IN ORIGINAL SOURCE]