Description: Challenge to toll bridge in the Currituck Outer Banks in North Carolina.
No Mid-Currituck Bridge-Concerned Citizens & Visitors Opposed to the Mid-Currituck Bridge v. North Carolina Department of Transportation
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 02/23/2023 Opinion Download Summary judgment for defendants affirmed. Fourth Circuit Rejected Contention that Updated Sea-Level Rise Projections Required Supplemental EIS for Outer Banks Bridge Project. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s rejection of claims that the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act when they approved a proposed toll bridge connecting North Carolina’s mainland with the Outer Banks. The agencies published a final environmental impact statement (EIS) in 2012 and then completed a reevaluation in 2019 after funding for the bridge was pulled and then recommitted. The plaintiffs’ arguments included that the agencies should have prepared a supplemental EIS to consider new information, including 2017 sea-level rise data that the plaintiffs claimed showed that the bridge would be inundated in less than 30 years. The Fourth Circuit characterized the sea-level rise issue as a “factual dispute the resolution of which implicates substantial agency expertise.” The court found that it could not conclude that the agencies were uninformed about sea-level rise risks and that the “new sea-level data only ‘confirmed concerns that the  EIS already articulated and considered.’” The court therefore held that the agencies’ decision not to issue a supplemental EIS to consider the issue was not arbitrary or capricious. 07/11/2022 Reply Download Reply brief filed by plaintiffs-appellants. 06/30/2022 Brief Download Joint response brief filed by defendants-appellees. 04/05/2022 Brief Download Opening brief filed by plaintiffs-appellants.
North Carolina Wildlife Federation v. North Carolina Department of Transportation
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 12/13/2021 Order Download Summary judgment granted in favor of defendants. North Carolina Federal Court Upheld Environmental Review for Toll Bridge, Rejecting Plaintiffs’ Sea Level Rise Arguments. The federal district court for the Eastern District of North Carolina found that the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) complied with NEPA in connection with FHWA’s approval of a $600 million toll bridge across the Currituck Sound near North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Among the arguments rejected by the court was that the defendants “unfairly skewed” the comparison of the financial feasibility of the preferred alternative with an alternative that improved existing roads, including because the financial feasibility analysis unreasonably ignored the impact that sea level rise would have on future toll revenue. The court stated, moreover, that “[t]he equal impact of this environmental phenomena” on each of the alternatives “does not serve as a differentiator among the alternatives.” The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ contention that new information on rising sea level’s increased impact on the project’s viability over the next half-century required preparation of a supplemental EIS. The court found that this was “not a new circumstance that presents a seriously different picture of the environmental impact of the proposed project from what was previously envisioned.” 05/28/2021 Reply Download Reply filed by federal defendants in support of cross-motion for summary judgment. 05/27/2021 Reply Download Reply filed by state defendants in support of cross-motion for summary judgment. 04/30/2021 Response Download Plaintiffs filed combined response and reply in support of motion for summary judgment. 04/01/2021 Motion for Summary Judgment Download Federal defendants filed combined memorandum in support of their motion for summary judgment and in opposition to plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. 04/01/2021 Motion for Summary Judgment Download State defendants filed memorandum of law opposing plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and in support of state defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment. 02/05/2021 Motion for Summary Judgment Download Memorandum of law filed by plaintiffs in support of motion for summary judgment. 04/23/2019 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Challenge to Outer Banks Toll Bridge Alleged Failure by Transportation Agencies to Consider Recent Advances in Climate Science. A North Carolina conservation organization and a local citizen group filed a lawsuit in the federal district court for the Eastern District of North Carolina challenging approvals for a toll bridge in the Currituck Outer Banks. The plaintiffs alleged that transportation agencies had approved the project in March 2019 without any public review of the project since a final environmental impact statement (EIS) was completed in January 2012 after the project had failed to move forward for decades due to concerns about the need for the bridge, its potential environmental impacts, and the availability of alternatives. The plaintiffs alleged that a number of issues warranted further scrutiny, including that in the intervening years “the science behind sea level rise, storm surge, and climate change models has significantly advanced—with implications for the durability of the Toll Bridge, its utility as a hurricane evacuation route, and its financial viability as a toll revenue generating facility.” The plaintiffs said the reevaluation of the 2012 EIS had not considered recent advances in climate change science; up-to-date sea level projections; recent observed and projected increases in storm surge magnitude; intensifying hurricanes; or marsh migration. The plaintiffs asserted a number of claims under NEPA, including that a supplemental EIS should have been prepared to address, among other issues, the new data about sea level rise and storm surge impacts.