Barnes v. USDOT

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 08-25-2011
  • Case #: 10-70718
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge B. Fletcher for the Court; Circuit Judge Paez; Circuit Judge Ikuta dissenting
  • Full Text Opinion

The addition of an airport runway raises "substantial questions [ ] as to whether a project [ ] may cause significant degradation of some human environmental factor," including indirect effects from increased demand.

Petitioners appealed a Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) finding of no significant impact (“FONSI”) regarding the environmental impact of the proposed construction of an additional runway at Hillsboro Airport in Oregon. The FAA FONSI, based on an environmental analysis (“EA”) submitted by the port, relieves authorities from completing a more in-depth environmental impact statement. The primary issue preserved for appeal is that adding a runway would increase demand, and the "EA is deficient for failing to consider the impact of the indirect effects." The FAA and the port contend that the addition of a runway will not increase demand, but merely alleviate current congestion on the airports two runways. Petitioners contend that further examination is necessary because "substantial questions are raised as to whether [the] project . . . may cause significant degradation of some human environmental factors." Beyond several conclusory statements and an appeal for deference to FAA findings, the Court found little evidence to suggest the port and the FAA adequately considered the impact of a third runway. Conversely, several FAA documents stated the most effective way to increase airport capacity is to add an additional runway. The Court remanded the case to the FAA to further determine the environmental impact of expansion. GRANTED and REMANDED.

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