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Suburban O'Hare Comm'n v. Dole

ELR Citation: 16 ELR 20686
Nos. No. 85-1073, 787 F.2d 186/24 ERC 1134/(7th Cir., 03/13/1986)

The court holds that the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) decision to approve Chicago's O'Hare Airport Layout Plan was reasonable and supported by substantial evidence under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Airway and Airport Improvement Act (AAIA), and the Clean Air Act, and the agency did not violate a previously entered consent decree among the parties providing for preparation of the comprehensive plan. The court first holds that the court of appeals has exclusive jurisdiction over the challenge of several communities surrounding O'Hare Airport to environmental issues in the airport expansion plan. The FAA promulgated the plan pursuant to four separate orders, three of which were issued in accordance with §1006 of the Federal Aviation Act, vesting exclusive jurisdiction in the appellate court. The court rules that whenever there are two bases for jurisdiction, one of which provides exclusive court of appeals jurisdiction, the entire decision is reviewable exclusively in the appellate court. The court holds that it has the authority to enforce the consent decree under the doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction and that the FAA's decision to approve the plan is an "order" within the meaning of §1006, the jurisdictional section. The court further holds that under §1006 the proper standard of review for FAA decisions is the substantial evidence test, requiring only that the FAA show a reasonable basis for its decision.

On the merits, the court holds that the FAA's discussion of alternatives was adequate and its decision to approve the plan was reasonable given the available alternatives. The court rejects plaintiffs' argument that a brief Record of Decision (ROD) implies an inadequate inquiry, because the ROD is merely a summary of the findings of an extensive investigation. The other alternatives, which included building a new airport, transferring a significant number of flights to other existing airports, developing alternate modes of transportation, or doing nothing, all would create greater problems than the approved plan. The court holds that the FAA has discretion to choose appropriate testing standards to measure NEPA requirements. The court further holds that the FAA decision did not violate §176 of the Clean Air Act, prohibiting agencies from approving activities that violate state implementation plans (SIPs). The agency found that the plan will not violate the Illinois SIP, and Chicago agreed to take steps to mitigate the plan's impact on air quality. The court holds that the FAA's decision was subject to the AAIA, but the agency did not violate the Act because the plan was reasonably consistent with existing area development plans. The court holds that the FAA had discretion whether or not to characterize a runway extension as "major," thus requiring a governor's approval certificate. Finally, the court rejects plaintiffs' contentions regarding the equities in the case, because their communities reap great economic benefits from the airport.

Counsel for Petitioners
Joseph V. Karaganis
Bell, Boyd & Lloyd
Three First Nat'l Plaza, Ste. 3200, Chicago IL 60602
(312) 372-1121

Counsel for Respondents
Michael M. Conway
Hopkins & Sutter
Three First Nat'l Plaza, Chicago IL 60602
(312) 558-6600

Peter R. Steenland Jr.
Land and Atural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2748

Before CUMMINGS, Chief Judge, and SWYGERT and ESCHBACH, Senior Circuit Judges.