Description: Challenge to the Bayfront Parkway Project in the City of Erie, for which the Federal Highway Administration approved a categorical exclusion.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Erie Unit 2262 v. Federal Highway Administration
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 12/29/2022 Memorandum Opinion Download Defendants' motion for summary judgment granted and plaintiff's motion for summary judgment denied. Pennsylvania Federal Court Rejected Climate Change Arguments in Unsuccessful Challenge to Categorical Exclusion for Roadway Project. The federal district court for the Western District of Pennsylvania upheld the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) approval of a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) categorical exclusion for a roadway project in the City of Erie. The court rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments that the FHWA had failed to examine significant impacts to and from climate change. First, the court said the argument that NEPA’s regulations required consideration of foreseeable indirect impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions from an increased number of vehicles on the road, was “misplaced” because the regulations applied only where an EIS was required. The court also agreed with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) that no regulation or federal standard established that the lack of a greenhouse gas emissions analysis under NEPA rendered an agency decision arbitrary and capricious. Second, the court found that based on PennDOT’s determination that the project was located entirely outside the 100-year floodplain, “it was reasonable to conclude that increased flooding resulting from climate change will not pose a significant risk.” 09/07/2022 Opposition Download Opposition filed by federal defendants to motion for preliminary injunction. 08/29/2022 Motion Download Memorandum filed in support of plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction. 09/24/2021 Motion for Summary Judgment Download Brief filed in support of plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs Argued that Roadway Project Required Environmental Review, Including Assessment of Potential Impacts of Climate Change on the Project. Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment in their case challenging the Bayfront Parkway Project, a roadway project in the City of Erie, Pennsylvania, which they argued did not meet requirements for a categorical exclusion under NEPA. The plaintiffs contended that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) failed to examine a number of potentially significant impacts, including impacts from climate change—both the project’s impact on climate change due to increased greenhouse gas emissions and the potential impact of climate change on the project. Regarding the impact of climate change on the project, the plaintiffs argued that PennDOT should have assessed the project and alternatives for impacts such as soil moisture levels affecting the structural integrity of roads and bridges, damage to culverts and roads during heavy precipitation events, the need for higher design standards to improve resiliency, and an evaluation of historic flooding events and impacts in the study area. 12/15/2020 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Organizations Cited Potential Flooding and Greenhouse Gas Emission Impacts in Challenge to Road Project in City of Erie. Two organizations—the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Erie Unit 2262 and Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future—filed a lawsuit challenging the Federal Highway Administration’s approval of a categorical exclusion for the Bayfront Parkway Project in Erie, Pennsylvania, a project that the plaintiffs alleged “prioritizes vehicles over pedestrians and cyclists” and “also ignored potential impacts to water quality, flooding, aesthetics, climate change, and the communities living closest to the Bayfront Parkway.” The complaint asserted that approval of the categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was arbitrary and capricious, including because the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation failed to examine potentially significant impacts, including increased flooding from Lake Erie due to climate change and the project’s plan “to increase impervious surfaces and permanently destroy wetlands” and lower part of the Bayfront Parkway; impacts on vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions; and disproportionate climate change impacts on communities of color and low-income communities. In addition to their NEPA claims, the plaintiffs also asserted claims under the Federal Aid Highway Act and Administrative Procedure Act.