Thursday, September 8, 2011

Barnes v. U.S. Dept. of Transportation

Aug 25: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 10-70718. On Petition for Review of an Order of the Federal Aviation Administration. Petitioners Michelle Barnes, Patrick Conry, and Blaine Ackley (collectively, petitioners) challenge an order of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concerning the proposed construction by the Port of Portland (the Port) of a new runway at Hillsboro Airport (HIO). The FAA issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), thus relieving the agency of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Petitioners argue that the decision not to prepare an EIS was unreasonable for several reasons, chief among them the FAA's failure to consider the environmental impacts of any increased demand for HIO resulting from the addition of a runway. Petitioners also argue that the FAA did not afford them a public hearing within the meaning of 49 U.S.C. § 47106.
    In a split opinion the Appeals Court majority granted the petition and remanded the case to the FAA with instructions to consider the environmental impact of increased demand resulting from the HIO expansion project, if any, pursuant to 40 C.F.R. § 1508.8(b). HIO is located in the city of Hillsboro in Washington County, Oregon, 12 miles west of downtown Portland. The Port of Portland assumed ownership of HIO in 1966. In 2008, HIO become Oregon's busiest airport, surpassing Portland International Airport (PDX) in number of airport operations.
    The dissenting justice said, "It is conventional wisdom among aviators that 'when the weight of the paper equals the weight of the airplane, only then you can go flying.' The majority confirms the truth of this quotation: here a federal agency is trying to reduce airport delays and the concomitant negative environmental effects by commencing a project in anticipation of future growth, and
the majority sides with delay and air pollution by imposing pointless paperwork on the agency before the necessary project can go forward. Because the majority's approach is contrary to our case law and the facts, I dissent."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Transport, #CA9]

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