Quantcast

Appeals Court Rules Federal, State Agencies Illegally Approved Controversial NC Highway

Southern Environmental Law Center

Ruling a wake-up call for DOTs nationwide to consider sprawl, other impacts of major highway projects

In a landmark ruling that has national implications, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on May 3 that the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) illegally failed to consider and disclose the potential sprawl-inducing impacts of a 20-mile highway bypass near Charlotte.

The court also chastised the transportation agencies for falsely denying to the public and other permitting agencies that they had essentially compared “building the road” with “building the road.”

“This is a wake-up call for NCDOT and transportation agencies around the country that the only legal way to assess environmental impacts of building major highways is to factor in resulting sprawl development on the landscape,” said David Farren, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). He said this is one of a only a few federal appellate rulings dealing with the fundamental precept that DOTs fully consider these secondary and cumulative impacts of building major highways when conducting environmental impact studies under the National Environmental Policy Act.

SELC represented Clean Air Carolina, North Carolina Wildlife Federation and Yadkin Riverkeeper in challenging the agencies’ approval of the controversial Monroe Bypass, a $700 million, four-lane highway on the suburban-rural fringe of metro Charlotte, one of the nation’s fastest growing metro areas.

The groups said the NCDOT and FHWA turned logic on its head by assuming the bypass already existed when they analyzed a “no build” option. This fundamental flaw skewed the examination of cheaper and less damaging alternatives, and prevented a valid comparison of potential environmental impacts. Using faulty assumptions and flawed methodology, the transportation agencies claimed the Monroe Bypass would only make a one percent difference in the level of growth in the region. When the conservation groups pointed out this flaw, NCDOT denied it—a falsehood that was conceded only when confronted in court.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Gretchen Goldman

The Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel has released their consensus recommendations to the EPA administrator on the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter. The group of 20 independent experts, that were disbanded by Administrator Wheeler last October and reconvened last week, hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, has now made clear that the current particulate pollution standards don't protect public health and welfare.

Read More Show Less
An African elephant is pictured on November 19, 2012, in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP / Getty Images

The unprecedented drought that has caused a water crisis in Zimbabwe has now claimed the life of at least 55 elephants since September, according to a wildlife spokesman, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Maria Dornelas.

By John C. Cannon

Life is reshuffling itself at an unsettling clip across Earth's surface and in its oceans, a new study has found.

Read More Show Less
An Exxon station in Florida remains open despite losing its roof during Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005. Florida Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Shaun Withers

The country's largest fossil fuel company goes on trial today to face charges that it lied to investors about the safety of its assets in the face of the climate crisis and potential legislation to fight it, as the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
El Niño's effect on Antarctica is seen in a tabular iceberg off of Thwaites ice shelf. Jeremy Harbeck / NASA

El Niños are getting stronger due to climate change, according to a new study in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Julia Ries

  • Antibiotic resistance has doubled in the last 20 years.
  • Additionally a new study found one patient developed resistance to a last resort antibiotic in a matter of weeks.
  • Health experts say antibiotic prescriptions should only be given when absolutely necessary in order to avoid growing resistance.

Over the past decade, antibiotic resistance has emerged as one of the greatest public health threats.

Read More Show Less
Pexels


There are hundreds of millions of acres of public land in the U.S., but not everyone has had the chance to hike in a national forest or picnic in a state park.

Read More Show Less
Workers attend to a rooftop solar panel project on May 14, 2017 in Wuhan, China. Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

By Simon Evans

Renewable sources of electricity are set for rapid growth over the next five years, which could see them match the output of the world's coal-fired power stations for the first time ever.

Read More Show Less