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Concerned Citizens of Rapides Parish v. Hardy

Citation: 11 ELR 20881
No. No. 8110, 397 So. 2d 1063/(La. Ct. App., 03/26/1981)

The appellate court rules that the lower court erred in granting a preliminary injunction preventing the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) from proceeding with solicitation of bids and construction of a proposed vertical liftstyle bridge over the Red River in Rapides Parish, Louisiana until it complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Plaintiff citizen group brought suit after the DOTD issued a negative declaration stating that the proposed bridge would have a minimal effect on air, water, and noise and that any adverse environmental impacts would be few and temporary. On the proceedural issues, the court of appeals adopts the trial court's ruling that it had subject matter jurisdiction and that plaintiffs had alleged a violation of NEPA sufficient to state a cause of action. The court also adopts the trial court's ruling that plaintiffs had standing to bring the suit because they would be adversely affected by the proposed project and because their injury was within the zone of interests protected by NEPA. Turning to the merits, the appellate court reverses the lower court's ruling that the DOTD's issuance of a negative declaration violated NEPA because the DOTD did not adequately study the feasibility of a high-rise bridge and failed to consider the impact on the environment of bridge openings and other significant factors. The DOTD took a "hard look" at the impact that projected bridge openings would have on the environment and adequately studied bridge design alternatives, concluding that a lifestyle bridge was best suited for the environment and traffic needs of the area. Applying the "rule of reason," the appellate court concludes that the DOTD complied with the requirements of NEPA, reverses the granting of the preliminary injunction, and remands the case for further proceedings.

The dissenting opinion finds that the lower court correctly determined that the proposed bridge would have a significant impact on the environment and that the DOTD's failure to prepare an environmental impact statement violated NEPA. Further, the dissent argues that as a result of the DOTD's action, the public was denied an opportunity to consider and comment on the proposed project and that the environmental impact of the high-rise alternative was not studied.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (18 pp. $2.75, ELR Order No. C-1252).

Counsel for Appellant
William J. Doran Jr.
704 S. Foster Dr., Baton Rouge LA 70806
(509) 924-4284

Counsel for Appellees
Christopher J. Roy
Suite 201, 1412 Center Court Dr., Alexandria LA 71301
(318) 487-8963

Guidry, J.