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Piedmont Heights Civic Club v. Moreland

Citation: 11 ELR 20257
No. No. 80-7414, 637 F.2d 430/16 ERC 1010/(5th Cir., 02/20/1981)

Affirming the denial of a preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin improvement of three interstate highway segments in Atlanta, Georgia, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals holds that the environmental impact statements (EISs) adequately considered alternatives and that the projects were not improperly segmented. Appellants challenged three highway improvement projects on Interstates 75 and 85, which pass through downtown Atlanta, contending that the EISs failed to consider the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) rail system as an alternative to the highway expansion and that there was improper segmentation because the projects were part of a regional plan. The court rules that the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that MARTA need not be considered as a specific alternative. Under § 102(2)(C)(iii) of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), mass transit need not be considered as a formal alternative where the plans for such a system have received prior approval. Rather, the rail system is to be considered a part of the environment of the project. The need for the highway project is thus to be considered in light of the existing plans for the mass transit. The record indicates that appellees considered the existence of the rapid transit line throughout the entire planning process and thus satisfied their obligations under NEPA. The court next rules that the record supports the lower court's finding that the individual highway segments have a substantial independent utility justifying separate treatment of the projects. Each of the three segments, though interrelated as part of an overall plan, can serve its transportation purpose whether or not the other projects are built. The court also rejects appellants' contention that the cumulative effects of the separate projects and MARTA construction require a comprehensive EIS, ruling that appellees satisfied NEPA by considering the environmental effects of MARTA and other pending highway projects in the underlying data base of the three projects. The court rules finally that a supplemental EIS was unnecessary and that the population data relied upon by appellees was valid. A dissenting opinion concludes that the EISs inadequately considered MARTA as an alternative and that there was improper segmentation because the three projects do not have independent utility.

Counsel for Appellants
John R. Myer, Edgar A. Neely Jr.
Neely, Player, Hamilton & Hines
3100 Peachtree Summit, Atlanta GA 30065
(404) 681-2600

Counsel for Appellees
William L. Harper, U.S. Attorney; Curtis Anderson, Robert J. Castellani, Ass't U.S. Attorneys
1800 R.B. Russell Fed. Bldg., 75 Spring St. SW, Atlanta GA 30303
(404) 221-6954

Arthur K. Bolton, Attorney General; Roland F. Matson, Robert S. Stubbs II, Don A. Langham, Marion O. Gordon, William D. Mallard Jr., Ass't Attorneys General
132 State Judicial Bldg., Atlanta GA 30334
(404) 656-4585

Kenneth N. Weinstein
Office of the General Counsel
Department of Transportation, Washington DC 20590
(202) 426-4731

Before MORGAN, ANDERSON and THOMAS A. CLARK, Circuit Judges.