Friday, August 5, 2011

Sierra Club v. Federal Highway Administration

Aug 2: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, Case No. 10-20502. Appealed from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. In this unpublished opinion, Sierra Club and Houston Audubon Society brought suit under the National Environmental Policy Act,  alleging that the Federal Highway Administration and others failed to follow certain requirements when preparing the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Segment E of the Grand Parkway, a highway planned in northwest Houston. The district court concluded that the defendants had complied with the Act's requirements and entered summary judgment in their favor. The Appeals Court affirmed.
    The Appeals Court concluded in its decision, "Although the district court may have erred in denying Appellants leave to amend, or at least erred in failing to provide its reason for doing so, any error was harmless. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 61 ('At every stage of the proceeding, the court must disregard all errors and defects that do not affect any party's substantial rights.'). Appellants assert that their rights were affected because the district court's denial of leave to amend prevented them from addressing inadequacies in the Re-evaluation. On the contrary, the district court never prohibited the parties from addressing the Re-evaluation. Furthermore, most of the additional claims in the proposed amended complaint were duplicative of the claims asserted in the original complaint. The relief sought by Appellants in the original complaint included the preparation of a supplemental EIS, and the Agencies concluded in the Re-evaluation that a supplemental EIS was unnecessary; therefore, the Re-evaluation was relevant to and appropriately addressed as part of Appellants' claims based on the FEIS. Two of the claims based on the Re-evaluation did not mirror claims in the original complaint, but one claim could have been brought in the original complaint and the other was fully addressed by the parties in their summary judgment briefing as part of one of the original claims. Appellants are therefore unable to demonstrate that their substantial rights were affected by the district court's denial of leave to amend their complaint."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Transport, #CA5]