Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shenandoah Valley Network v. J. Capka

Feb 17: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, Case No. 10-1954. Appealed from the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, at Charlottesville. The Appeals Court explains that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) (collectively, the Agencies) are planning improvements to Virginia's Interstate 81 corridor using a tiered review process. Appellants -- a group of environmental and preservation organizations -- challenged the Agencies' execution of the tiered process, alleging various constitutional and statutory violations. The district court rejected these challenges and granted summary judgment in favor of the Agencies.
    On appeal, appellants claim that the Agencies are attempting to foreclose consideration of environmentally friendly alternatives for specific sections of I-81 by choosing a corridor-wide improvement concept in the first stage of the review process. Appellants, however, misapprehend the Agencies' position. As confirmed at oral argument, the Agencies plan to comply with the Stipulation in this case and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), by considering site-specific alternatives to the corridor-wide concept in subsequent stages. The Appeals Court ruled, "Because there is no actual dispute here, and because appellants cannot show any injury or imminent threat of injury, this suit is not justiciable. Accordingly, we must dismiss the appeal."
    The Appeals Court concluded further, "There is simply nothing for this court to adjudicate. NEPA does not permit us to prescribe outcomes either now or in the future, but neither would it allow us to proscribe in the present proceeding even the consideration of future environmental impacts. Either the prescription of outcomes or the proscription of consideration would not only be contrary to the statute, but would raise a live and present controversy between the parties. Neither circumstance being present, there remains nothing to dispute and we are satisfied that no justiciable controversy lingers. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Transport, #CA4]
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