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Secretary of Envtl. Affairs v. Massachusetts Port Auth.

Citation: 5 ELR 20200
No. Nos. S-112, -113, 323 N.E.2d 329/7 ERC 1759/(Mass., 02/05/1975) Injunction upheld

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirms a lower court's issuance of an injunction against further construction on a runway project at Logan Airport in Boston until the Massachusetts Port Authority has published a final environmental impact report in compliance with the state Environmental Protection Act (MEPA). The project did not commence within the meaning of MEPA until the execution of a contract for construction of runway extensions and additions in May 1974, well after the July 1, 1973 effective date of the statute, and hence is subject to the Act's EIR requirement. The trial court judge was correct in making his own findings of fact regarding the project's possible environmental effects in the process of reviewing defendant's determination that an EIR need not be prepared, since the prevailing tendency in NEPA case law is to subject negative determinations to de novo review. The trial court's conclusion, drawn from these findings, that the runway project might cause new flight patterns which would subject some residential areas to significant noise exposure, is not clearly erroneous and must be upheld. Defendants have therefore failed to comply with MEPA, and the injunction against further construction was properly issued. The court notes that a low threshold of possible environmental harm should be applied in determining whether an EIR is required for a particular project under MEPA, and points out that the existence of serious public controversy concerning a project's environmental effects in itself indicates that preparation of an EIR is desirable.

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellees
Peter Koff Asst. Corporation Counsel
City of Boston Law Department
One City Hall Square
Boston, Mass. 02201

Gregor I. McGregor Asst. Attorney General
State House
Boston, Mass. 02111

Daniel D. Sullivan
Boston Legal Assistance Project
264 Meridian Street
East Boston, Mass. 02128

Counsel for Defendants-Appellants
Neil L. Lynch
Massachusetts Port Authority
99 High Street
Boston, Mass. 02110

Oscar M. Shaw
John Silas Hopkins, III
Paul B. Galvani
William F. McCarthy
John H. Mason
Ropes & Gray
225 Franklin Street
Boston, Mass. 02110

John D. O'Reilly III
Letoile, Murphy & O'Reilly
1300A Worcester Road
Framingham, Mass. 01701