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Airport Communities Coalition v. Graves

280 F. Supp. 2d 1207 (2003)

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Airport Communities Coalition v. Graves

United States District Court for the Western District of Washington

280 F. Supp. 2d 1207 (2003)

Facts

The Port of Seattle obtained a permit under the Clean Water Act from the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) (defendant) for a runway expansion at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The runway expansion required the filling of wetlands. Corps regulations required the Corps to weigh the benefits and detriments of a project to the public interest as part of the permit decision. The Airport Communities Coalition (ACC) (plaintiff) sued the Corps in federal district court pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), claiming that the issuance of the permit was arbitrary and capricious. The ACC presented expert testimony challenging various aspects of the Corps’ public-interest determination, including the Corps’ failure to (1) analyze whether the project was necessary in light of reduced flight activity; (2) consider less harmful alternatives such as technology-based methods for reducing delays; (3) update cost estimates; (4) apply adequately stringent fill criteria; and (5) adequately assess and mitigate impacts to wetlands. As to these challenges, the administrative record showed that Corps experts (1) independently reviewed the project needs with input from various agencies and found that expansion was needed for safety and to reduce delays; (2) considered and rejected the technology-based methods because such methods would not suffice to address weather-related delays; (3) determined that updated cost estimates were not necessary, because the cost was not a determinative factor in weighing alternatives; (4) found that less-stringent fill criteria were appropriate based on the local natural background levels of soil components; and (5) employed a rational methodology for mitigating net wetland functionality. The parties each moved for summary judgment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rothstein, J.)

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