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Bennett v. Taylor

Citation: 11 ELR 20184
No. No. 78-417-A, 505 F. Supp. 800/15 ERC 1602/(M.D. La., 12/31/1980)

The court rules that completion of a 4.5-mile highway segment in Clinton, Louisiana, to be funded exclusively by the state, is neither a "major Federal action" under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) nor federal action for purposes of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). With the exception of this segment, virtually the entire highway, referred to as Louisiana 67, had been improved with the aid of federal funds prior to NEPA's enactment. Notwithstanding that Louisiana proposes to complete this project using state funds only, plaintiffs contend that Louisiana 67 is an ongoing project that must be considered in its entirety and thus it is improper to segment the remaining 4.5 miles from the rest of the project. The court rejects this argument and holds that in order to find there has been improper segmentation requiring that the separately funded state project be subjected to the NEPA process, there must have been major federal involvement in the same project after NEPA was enacted. The court concludes that segmentation was proper because construction of the 4.5-mile portion is separate and distinct from the federally funded improvements of other parts of Louisiana 67. Moreover, the disputed segment was properly distinguished from the other projects because it has logical termini and an independent purpose. The court also rejects plaintiffs' argument that federal participation in the development of the project prior to 1970 has irrevocably "federalized" this project thus requiring compliance with NEPA. Finally, the court rules that their finding of no federal action also makes the NHPA inapplicable.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
J. Arthur Smith
524 France St., Baton Rouge LA 70802
(504) 383-7716

Counsel for Defendants
C. Michael Hill, U.S. Attorney
707 Florida St., Baton Rouge LA 70801
(504) 389-0443

Lawrence R. Liebesman
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-5388

Jean G. Rogers, Regional Counsel
Federal Highway Administration
819 Taylor St., Fort Worth TX 76102
(817) 334-3224

Sharon Lyles
Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development
1202 Capitol Access Rd., Baton Rouge LA 70804
(504) 342-7501