Friday, May 4, 2012

North Carolina Wildlife v. North Carolina Dep't of Transportation

May 3: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, Case No. 11-2210. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, at Raleigh. The North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration (collectively, the Agencies) recently approved construction of a new twenty-mile toll road in North Carolina linking Mecklenburg and Union Counties -- the Monroe Connector Bypass. Seeking to enjoin construction of the toll road, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, Clean Air Carolina, and Yadkin Riverkeeper (collectively, the Conservation Groups) filed this suit, contending that the process by which the Agencies approved the road violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).
    The district court granted summary judgment to the Agencies. The Conservation Groups appealed. The Appeals Court said, "Because the Agencies failed to disclose critical assumptions underlying their decision to build the road and instead provided the public with incorrect information, they did indeed violate NEPA. Accordingly, we must vacate the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."
    The Appeals Court ruled, "In sum, although we need not and do not decide whether NEPA permits the Agencies to use MUMPO's [Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization's] data in this case, we do hold that by doing so without disclosing the data's underlying assumptions and by falsely responding to public concerns, the Agencies failed to take the required 'hard look' at environmental consequences. Shenandoah Valley, 669 F.3d at 196. We therefore vacate the judgment of the district court and remand so that the Agencies and the public can fully (and publicly) evaluate the 'no build' data."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Transport, #CA4]
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