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Goshen Rd. Envtl. Action Team v. Department of Agric.

ELR Citation: 29 ELR 21243
Nos. No. 98-2102, 176 F.3d 475/(4th Cir., 04/06/1999) Aff'd

The court holds that a North Carolina town and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act or the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in connection with the siting of a wastewater treatment facility in an African-American neighborhood. The court first holds that the siting of the facility did not violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The town provided substantial nondiscriminatory reasons for its site decision. Further, it had legitimate reasons for its choice of a facility location. The town selected four potential sites based on the legitimate, race-neutral recommendation of its engineers. The four sites were narrowed to two because those sites provided the least potential for public contact and required smaller buffer zones. Moreover, the final site was recommended because it required slightly less land due to better soil, its road frontage provided for easier access, and it was farther from a nutrient-sensitive river. In addition, the neighborhood association challenging the facility's siting produced no evidence supporting its claims that other equally effective sites existed and that the stated reasons for locating the site were a pretext for discrimination.

The court next holds that the USDA's environmental assessment (EA) for the facility satisfied NEPA, and an environmental impact statement was not required. The EA sufficiently covered the selected site and its potential historic significance, and the EA adequately considered the alternatives to the selected site. And no NEPA provision or regulation requires that an EA include a disparate impact analysis addressing the racial burden of the facility.

[The district court's decision in this litigation is published at 26 ELR 20803.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Stephen J. Bowens
Land Loss Prevention Project
P.O. Box 179, Durham NC 27702
(919) 682-5969

Counsel for Defendants
Claire Lynn Brock
Brock & Foy
111 E. Jones St., Trenton NC 28585
(252) 448-3911

Before Wilkinson, Wilkins, and Lutting, JJ.