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Parsippany-Troy Hills, Township of v. Costle

ELR Citation: 11 ELR 20344
Nos. No. 78-1174, 503 F. Supp. 314/14 ERC 1387/(D.N.J., 11/27/1979)

Denying a motion for a preliminary injunction, the court rules that the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) decision not to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a sewage treatment project in Morris County, New Jersey, was neither arbitrary, capricious, nor unreasonable and thus did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Rockaway Valley Regional Sewage Authority (RVRSA) initiated plans for a three-phased sewage treatment project to increase water treatment services in several municipalities in Rockaway Valley, which was subsequently approved and funded by EPA. In 1976 and 1978 EPA issued negative declarations for phases one and two respectively. In 1979 plaintiff sought a preliminary injunction, contending that EPA's failure to file an EIS and failure to consult with state and federal agencies before making its negative determinations violated NEPA. First, the court rules that since the suit was filed three years after EPA issued the negative declaration for phase I and after construction of 80% of the interceptor, the doctrine of laches bars all of plaintiff's claims with respect to that phase of the project. Where an agency has considered the environmental impacts and irreversibly committed its resources to an ongoing project which is substantially completed, the public's interest is not served by enjoining that project. However, plaintiff's challenge to phase two is not barred because EPA has yet to commit funds to it. Second, applying an arbitrary and capricious standard of review, the court rejects plaintiff's assertion that the Agency's decision not to prepare an EIS for phase two ignores significant environmental effects. The court next holds that although EPA consulted with the Fish and Wildlife Service after issuing its negative declaration on phase two of the project, the substantive requirements of NEPA were fulfilled. Further, since the project neither threatened harm to any endangered species nor destruction of significant historical or archeological data, EPA was not required to consult with the Department of the Interior regarding those issues. The court also rules that the record does not support plaintiff's allegations concerning RVRSA's violation of certain provisions of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. In addition, there is no need to resolve the claim that the Rivers and Harbors Act was violated for failure to issue a §10 permit prior to construction since plaintiff's challenge to phase one is barred by laches. Finally, the court holds that a state law requiring that future population growth be considered in the design of sewage treatment plants is inapplicable.

The court's judgment was subsequently affirmed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. 639 F.2d 776 (3d Cir. Oct. 10, 1980).

The full text of the opinion is available from ELR (16 pp. $2.50, ELR Order No. C-1238).

Counsel for Plaintiff
Bertram J. Latzer
Sears, Pendleton & Latzer
57 Old Bloomfield Ave., Mountain Lakes NJ 07046
(201) 334-1011

John N. Malyska
Meyner & Landis
Gateway One, Suite 2500, Newark NJ 07102
(201) 624-2800

Counsel for Defendant Rockaway Valley Regional Sewerage Authority
Joseph J. Maraziti Jr.
Maraziti & Kalish
65 Madison Ave., Morristown NJ 07960
(201) 538-1221

Counsel for Government Defendants
John J. Degnan, Attorney General; Lawrence E. Stanley, Deputy Attorney General
Department of Law & Public Safety
State House Annex, 2d Floor, Trenton NJ 08625
(609) 292-4925

Robert J. Del Tufo, U.S. Attorney; Valerie F. Mauceri, Ass't U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 330, Federal Bldg., 970 Broad St., Newark NJ 07102
(201) 645-2155

Stern, J.