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Grand Canyon Trust v. Federal Aviation Admin.

Citation: 32 ELR 20677
No. No. 01-1154, 290 F.3d 339/(D.C. Cir., 05/24/2002)

The court holds that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) failed to adequately consider the cumulative impacts on the natural quiet of Zion National Park in its environmental assessment (EA) for a nearby airport expansion project. The court first holds that the FAA's EA failed to address the total noise impact that will result from the airport. Although the FAA concluded that the airport may contribute only a 2% increase in the amount of overflights near or over the park, there is no way to determine from the FAA's analysis whether, deferring to the FAA's calculations, a 2% increase, in addition to other noise impacts on the park, will significantly affect the quality of the human environment in the park. Additionally, at no point does the FAA's EA aggregate the noise impacts on the park. The EA does not address the accumulated, or total, incremental impacts of various man-made noises; consider the air tours originating from an existing airport; or address the impact, much less the cumulative impact, of noise in the park as the result of other activities. Without analyzing the total noise impact on the park, the FAA is not in a position to determine whether the additional noise that is projected to come from the airport would cause a significant environmental impact on the park, and, thus, whether an environmental impact statement (EIS) is required. The court, therefore, remands the case because the record is insufficient for the court to determine whether an EIS must be prepared. On remand, the FAA must evaluate the cumulative impacts of noise pollution on the park.

Counsel for Petitioner
Robin Cooley
Pierson, Wadhams, Quinn & Yates
253 S. Union St., Burlington VT 05401
(802) 863-2888

Counsel for Respondent
Ellen J. Durkee
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Rogers, J. Before Edwards and Tatel, JJ.