Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Natural Resources Defense Council v. U.S. Department of Transportation

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20238
Nos. 12-56467, (9th Cir., 10/30/2014)

The Ninth Circuit held that DOT did not violate the CAA or NEPA in its approval of a planned expressway connecting the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. In the course of the project’s approval process, DOT conducted an air quality conformity determination under the CAA, which involved a qualitative hot-spot analysis of existing concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and an EIS as required by NEPA. An environmental group filed suit, arguing that the conformity determination was arbitrary and capricious because DOT was required to estimate PM2.5 increases within the area immediately adjacent to the proposed expressway. But the governing regulations do not decisively answer whether the CAA required qualitative hot-spot analysis within the immediate vicinity of the project area during the time period at issue. As such, EPA's and DOT's interpretation of the regulations—permitting the type of analysis performed in this case—are entitled to considerable deference. The court also held that the EIS took the requisite "hard look" at the project’s likely consequences and probable alternatives under NEPA. The court, therefore, affirmed a lower court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the government.