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Steubing v. Brinegar

Citation: 5 ELR 20183
No. No. 74-1911, 511 F.2d 489/7 ERC 1510/(2d Cir., 02/13/1975) Aff'd

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court's issuance of a preliminary injunction against construction of a federally-funded expressway bridge over Lake Chautauqua in western New York state pending preparation of a NEPA impact statement. The bridge project is subject to NEPA's requirements since Plans, Specifications and Estimates (P.S.&E.) approval for rights of way acquisition, demolition of buildings, and bridge substructure construction was not granted until after January 1, 1970, and prior to that time no federal funds had yet been committed to the project. The court rules that plaintiffs' delay in bringing this suit must be measured from the May 1973 P.S.&E. approval of bridge substructure construction rather than the May 1972 P.S.&E. approval of building demolition. Plaintiffs' delay from May 1973 until November 1973 before filing suit does not bar injunctive relief under the doctrine of laches, however, since the primary question is not how much earlier plaintiffs should have sued, but whether injunctive relief pending NEPA compliance would still serve the public interest in effecting compliance with the Act by public officials. The bridge is only three percent complete, and at such an early stage of construction the possible environmental benefits resulting from EIS preparation outweigh the detriment suffered by defendants as a result of plaintiffs' delay. For the district court's opinion, see 4 ELR 20831.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Richard J. Lippes
Sargent & Lippes
Western Building
15 Court Street
Buffalo, N.Y. 14202

Counsel for Defendants
Wallace H. Johnson Asst. Attorney General
Eva R. Datz
Edmund B. Clark
Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20530

John T. Elfvin U.S. Attorney
C. Donald O'Connor Asst. U.S. Attorney
U.S. Courthouse
64 Court Street
Buffalo, N.Y. 14202

Louis J. Lefkowitz Attorney General
Douglas S. Dales, Jr. Asst. Attorney General
Ruth Kessler Toch Solicitor General
State Capitol
Albany, N.Y. 12224

Counsel for Intervenors Thom Shagla, et al. and County of Chautauqua
Norman J. Landau
233 Broadway
New Yok, N.Y. 10007

Paul D. Rheingold
Pan Am Building
200 Park Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10017

Counsel for Amicus Curiae Environmental Defense Fund, Inc.
Debevoise, Plimpton, Lyons & Gates
299 Park Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10017