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Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation v. Interstate Commerce Comm'n

ELR Citation: 18 ELR 20734
Nos. No. 87-4123, 841 F.2d 479/(2d Cir., 03/09/1988)

The court holds that the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) adequately considered environmental and historical factors in deciding to permit abandonment of a railroad line. The court first holds that even if the ICC initially authorized abandonment without adequately considering environmental or historic concerns as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and the National Trails System Act, the ICC reopened the matter and thoroughly considered those concerns in making its final decision. The plaintiff was not deprived of an opportunity to buy the entire line for trail use; it had made no purchase offer, and the successful efforts of other entities to buy parts of the line suggested that purchasing opportunities were not restricted. The court next holds that the ICC's position that the National Trails System Act does not empower it to order trail use is reasonable and permissible, as is the ICC's position that 49 U.S.C. §10906 does not empower it to require sale or impose terms and conditions of sale. Section 10906 only requires the ICC to impose conditions such as the public use condition that it imposed here. In addition, the ICC need not impose terms when sales are being negotiated voluntarily. Legislative history also suggests that §10906 only covers sales to public authorities, so the plaintiff may not be an intended beneficiary. In any event, an opportunity to purchase was provided.

The court next holds that the data before the ICC was adequate. Regulations encourage preparation of environmental assessments rather than full-blown environmental impact statements when possible, and the ICC environmental assessment was thorough. NEPA and the NHPA require only that agencies acquire information before acting, and the ICC acquired information before making its final decision. The court also holds that the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation had a reasonable opportunity to comment under the NHPA on the historical consequences of abandoning the line as a whole. Finally, the court holds that the ICC need not reconsider its decision merely because a town, reversing its earlier position, wants to buy part of the line.

Counsel for Petitioners
Charles H. Montange
1701 K St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 659-3944

Counsel for Respondents
Evelyn G. Kitay
Interstate Commerce Commission
12th St. & Constitution Ave. NW, Washington DC 20423
(202) 275-0885

Before Van Graafeiland and Mahoney, JJ.