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Citizens Comm. Against Interstate Route 675 v. Lewis

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20367
Nos. No. C-3-82-017, 542 F. Supp. 496/(S.D. Ohio, 06/10/1982)

The court upholds the adequacy of a final environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared for the construction of a proposed segment of highway I-675 in Dayton, Ohio, and rules that Secreretary of Transportation Lewis did not abuse his discretion by reversing his predecessor's decision disapproving a segment of the project. The construction of I-675 was first proposed in 1957, but was not constructed by 1970 when the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was enacted. In 1976, to comply with NEPA, a draft EIS was prepared and in 1978 the final EIS was issued. In 1979, Secretary Goldschmidt disapproved a segment of I-675. However, in 1981, Secretary Lewis overturned the 1979 decision and allowed the construction of the entire highway to proceed. Plaintiffs sought to enjoin construction of the project asserting the inadequacy of the EIS.

The court first notes that the scope of its review is to determine whether the administrative action was arbitrary or capricious and that its review of the EIS is governed by the rule of reason. The court rules that plaintiff Frank Mione, who owns property abutting I-675, has standing to challenge the EIS because he has alleged environmental injury in fact. Therefore, he may also raise other issues of interest to the public and within the zone-of-interests protected by NEPA, including socioeconomic impacts of I-675 on the city of Dayton. The Citizens Committee also has standing because Mione, who has standing, is a member of the committee. However, other plaintiffs, both individual and organizational, lack standing because they alleged generally the loss of jobs and population in the area, which do not constitute the requisite injury-in-fact to meet the Article III case or controversy requirement.

Next, the court rules that laches is not a bar to the action. Not only did plaintiffs have no personal stake in asserting claims until the complete I-675 was approved in 1981, but the delay has not caused sufficient harm to defendants to outweight the public interest in protecting the environment.

After reviewing ENPA, its legislative history, and Council on Environmental Quality regulations, the court rules that the EIS need not include an analysis of potential socioeconomic impacts of I-675 of the city of Dayton. Since the highway is to be constructed outside the city, plaintiffs have not demonstrated that these impacts are related to impacts upon the physical environment. Furthermore, even if a discussion of economic impacts were required under NEPA, the court concludes that the EIS contains sufficient discussion of the environmental impacts to enable the decisionmaker to fully consider them.

The court also find that the EIS adequately discussed all reasonable alternatives. Since the location of the highway was established eight years prior to NEPA, consideration of an alternative location was not reasonable. Nor was consideration of small-scale localized improvements, a reduced scale highway, substitute projects, or the mass transit alternative required. Furthermore, the EIS contained sufficient information to assess the environmental effects of the alternative of constructing only a segment of I-675 and the no-build alternative.

The court notes that certain of plaintiffs' procedural challenges are actually a request that the court overturn the agency's decision in contravention of the established prohibition against a court substituting its judgment for that of the agency. The court rules that the EIS was complied in good faith and provided sufficient information to allow the decisionmaker to fully consider the environmental impacts of the project. Furthermore, a supplemental EIS is not required because (1) new population data was not environmentally significant new information triggering the need for a new EIS and (2) the EIS was not inadequate for failing to address the effect of the highway on secondary development because such development was not projected to occur.

The court rules that the EIS considers potential noise impacts of the project in compliance with NEPA and Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) regulations. In addition, defendants complied with NEPA and FHwA regulations by including references to other agency comments in the EIS, and were not required to reconcile those comments with opposing views.

Finally, the court rules that the 1981 reveral of Secretary Goldschmidt's 1979 decision was not arbitrary and capricious. There is ample support in the record for the conclusions reached by Secretary Lewis and there is nothing in NEPA that would prohibit reconsideration of a prior decision. The court also rules that the approval of the last portion of I-675 was not an abuse of discretion, rejecting plaintiffs' argument that it was notivated by improper political pressure. The court denies the motion to dismiss since plaintiffs failed to establish bad faith in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The Court concludes that defendants did not violate 23 U.S.C. §134, which requires the Secretary of Transportation to cooperate with state and local officials in the development of transportation plans.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (89 pp. 11.75, ELR Order No. C-1289).

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Thomas L. Crowl Jr.
5518 N. Main St., Dayton OH 45415
(513) 278-8854

Counsel for Defendants
Robert J. Fogarty, James A. Wilson, Ass't U.S. Attorneys
P.O. Box 280, Mid City Sta., Dayton OH 45402
(513) 225-2910

Robert B. Schaefer
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-3906

John L. Tanoury, Deputy Chief Ass't Attorney General
17th Floor, 30 E. Broad St., Columbus OH 43215
(614) 466-3376

Counsel for Intervenors
Charles H. Horn
Estabrook, Finn & McKee
2100 First Nat'l Bank Bldg., Dayton OH 45402
(513) 228-2411

Rice, J.

[OPINION OMITTED BY PUBLISHER IN ORIGINAL SOURCE]