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Audubon Naturalist Soc'y of the Cent. Atl. States v. Department of Transp.

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20295
Nos. No. AW-06-3386, (D. Md., 11/08/2007)

A district court granted summary judgment for federal defendants upholding the adequacy of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Intercounty Connector, a major proposed highway in suburban Washington, D.C. Even though the purpose and need statement referred to a highway only, the EIS clearly considers non-highway alternatives and is not unduly narrow. The federal agencies did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in selecting the needs for the project and considered many non-highway alternatives, including alternatives suggested by the plaintiffs. The federal agencies’ consideration of the environmental impacts of the various alternatives was not arbitrary and capricious. Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the agencies acted arbitrarily and capriciously under §4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act in ensuring that impacts to parkland and other protected resources were avoided or minimized. Plaintiffs’ challenges to the sufficiency of a Clean Water Act §404 permit are rejected for largely the same reasons that the EIS is upheld. Plaintiffs cannot bring a Clean Air Act (CAA) citizen suit over the CAA transportation conformity requirements because the court’s review of the conformity determination is limited to jurisdiction under the Administrative Procedure Act. Moreover, plaintiffs’ challenges to the agencies’ particulate matter hotspot analysis under the transportation conformity determination are not sufficient to overcome the court’s deference to agencies’ interpretation of their own regulations. Similarly, the agencies’ determination that the project is in the best overall public interest pursuant to §109(h) of the Federal-Aid Highways Act is adequately supported and not arbitrary and capricious. Approval of contracts involved with the final two segments of the project do not amount to “major federal action” requiring supplementation under the National Environmental Policy Act as the overall project has already been approved, and there is no need to supplement the EIS as changes to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's particulate matter air quality standard have been taken into account. Concerns submitted by local politicians as amici were duly taken into consideration by the federal agencies.