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South Carolina Wildlife Fed'n v. Limehouse

ELR Citation: 38 ELR 20294
Nos. No. 07-1431, (4th Cir., 12/05/2008)

The Fourth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision denying a motion to dismiss environmental groups' National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) claim against the director of the South Carolina Department of Transportation concerning the construction of a bridge. The director argued that the claims against him were barred by sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. NEPA does not provide a cause of action against state actors. Nevertheless, federal courts have "a form of pendent jurisdiction . . . based upon necessity" over claims for injunctive relief brought against state actors in order to preserve the integrity of federal remedies. NEPA therefore permits a suit against a state actor where, as here, the party seeks to preserve federal rights under the statute pending the outcome of federal procedural review. The director argued that he will not proceed with construction absent the Federal Highway Administration's approval of the final environmental impact statement. But because action by the director to further the project prior to such review could fundamentally alter the project’s calculus and thereby undermine the federal remedy, the court has jurisdiction to enjoin such action. In addition, the group alleged facts sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss for lack of standing.