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Sierra Club v. Corps of Eng'rs

Citation: 14 ELR 20356
No. No. 83-6321, 732 F.2d 253/21 ERC 1208/(2d Cir., 03/07/1984) Injunction against N.Y. vacated

The court holds that the district court was without authority to enjoin the State of New York from spending its own money on preliminary design and engineering work on the Westway highway project pending correction of federal agencies' National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) violation. The court first distinguishes the standards governing modification of preliminary and permanent injunctions. The former may be changed in the judge's discretion when necessary to effectuate the purpose of the injunction, which is to maintain the status quo pending final resolution of the controversy. A permanent injunction may be modified only in unusual circumstances when a significant change in circumstances warrants. The court holds that the district court's order was in the nature of a preliminary injunction, even though issued after a hearing, because it was intended only to put the highway project on hold until completion of studies to rectify the NEPA violation.

The court then holds that the district court misconstrued the Federal-Aid Highway Act. The Act cuts off federal interstate highway funds as of September 30, 1990. The lower court refused to consider this deadline in balancing the equities concerning modification of the injunction. The court notes, though, that the district court did not abuse its discretion in considering a letter from a Federal Highway Administration official concerning the Administration's funding policy.

Finally, the court rules that the district court lacked authority to enjoin the state from using its own money to fund preliminary engineering and design work on the project. The original order of the court did not enjon the state, and the court lacked authority to do so. Since the state was not a recipient of federal highway funds, though it was an applicant, there was not a sufficient nexus between the state and the federal agencies that violated NEPA to enjoin the state on a partnership basis.

Counsel for Appellant
Paul J. Curran, Bruce Margolius
Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler
425 Park Ave., New York NY 10022
(212) 407-8000

Counsel for Appellees
Alfred K. Butzel, Mitchell S. Bernard, Jean M. McCarroll
Butzel & Kass
45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York NY 10111
(212) 765-1800

Joined by Meskill and Kearse, JJ.