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Virginians for Dulles v. Volpe

Citation: 6 ELR 20581
No. No. 72-2029, 541 F.2d 442/9 ERC 1538/(4th Cir., 05/19/1976) Rev'd

The court of appeals reverses the district court order dismissing this action, 2 ELR 20360, only insofar as it held that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was not required to file a NEPA impact statement on its operation of National Airport and Dulles International Airport. The district court correctly refused class representative status to the plaintiff association respecting its members' claim that National is a nuisance; in any case, no party appealed from denial of relief on the merits of the nuisance issue. The association has standing to raise the NEPA claim, for it has alleged that operation of the airports in violation of NEPA adversely affects its members' use of areas near the airports. The district court misread Arlington Coalition on Transportation v. Volpe, 2 ELR 20162 (4th Cir. 1972), to sanction the FAA's failure to file an impact statement on its ongoing operations at National and Dulles. That case exempts ongoing projects from NEPA only when abandonment is the sole practical alternative to completion as originally planned. As the stipulated facts make clear, operation of the airports constitutes major federal action significantly affecting the environment. The conclusion that the FAA must file an impact statement on these airport operations is reinforced by NEPA's goal of injecting environmental values into all federal decisionmaking, by the legislative history of § 102(2)(C) of NEPA, by § 1500.13 of the Council on Environmental Quality Guidelines, and by the corpus of pertinent case law. The district court properly rejected plaintiffs' claim that the FAA violated the Administrative Procedure Act by taking various actions in connection with administering National. The judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case remanded for further consistent proceedings. Each party is to bear its own costs.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Geoffrey Judd Vitt
Bernard S. Cohen
Stephen D. Annand
320 King St.
Alexandria VA 22314
(703) 836-2121

Counsel for Federal Defendants
Dirk D. Snel
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice
Washington DC 20530
(202) 739-2769

Counsel for Airline Defendants
Lyman M. Tondel, Jr.
Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton
One State Street Plaza
New York NY 10004
(212) 344-0600

Joseph M. Spivey, III
Hunton, Williams, Gay & Gibson
P.O. Box 1535
Richmond VA 23212
(804) 649-3661

Butzner, J. for himself, Clark,* Justice, & Field, J.