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Sierra Club v. Volpe

Citation: 2 ELR 20760
No. No. C-72-919 WTS, 351 F. Supp. 1002/4 ERC 1804/(N.D. Cal., 12/06/1972)

The district court denies the motion for summary judgment of federal and state authorities and preliminarily enjoins any further action on the Devil's Slide By Pass highway project, still in the planning stage, until the federal defendants comply with the Federal Highway Act (FHA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the state defendants comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).In denying summary judgment, the court holds that: (1) the plaintiffs have standing, (2) the suit is not barred by laches, (3) the state defendants are not immune to suit under the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution, and (4) as a matter of law, the Devil's Slide plan is a "federal project" within the meaning of FHA and NEPA, notwithstanding the state's attempt to oust the court of jurisdiction by proceeding without federal funding, because there is a completed federally funded segment directly to the north and the possible environmental damage derived from the construction of the disputed portion would effectively preclude future meaningful consideration of the impact of the continuation segment to be built to the south with federal funds. Further, the court decides that the plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits and it tentatively finds that (1) the federal defendants have failed to comply with FHA requirements, which mandate certain public hearings, and NEPA, which requires the filing of an environmental impact statement, both of which are applicable to the fullest possible extent to projects commenced before the acts became effective in light of the facts that construction has not yet started and no prior hearings on design or environmental impact ever were held; and (2) the state defendants have failed to comply with the CEQA which directs the filing of an environmental impact statement in the instance of an ongoing project where practicable in the circumstances.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Beatrice Challiss Laws
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund
311 California Street, Suite 311
San Francisco, California 94104

Charles D. Chalmers
Petty, Andrews, Olsen, Tufts, Jackson & Sander
650 California Street
San Francisco, California 94108

Counsel for Defendants
David Golay Asst. U.S. Attorney
450 Golden Gate
San Francisco, California

Norval Fairman State Highway Counsel
Donald M. Velasco State Highway Counsel
369 Pine Street
San Francisco, California 94104