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Case Name Southwest Williamson County Community Ass’n v. Slater EJ-TN-0001
Docket / Court 3:97-0734 ( M.D. Tenn. )
State/Territory Tennessee
Case Type(s) Environmental Justice
Case Summary
On July 14, 1997, Southwest Williamson County Community Association, Inc., a community organization, filed a complaint against federal and state officials to block the construction of 840–South which would traverse through the Middle Tennessee counties of Dickson, Williamson, and Rutherford. The ... read more >
On July 14, 1997, Southwest Williamson County Community Association, Inc., a community organization, filed a complaint against federal and state officials to block the construction of 840–South which would traverse through the Middle Tennessee counties of Dickson, Williamson, and Rutherford. The complaint alleged that the federal and state officials had not complied with Federal and State environmental laws. Specifically Plaintiffs allege that Federal and State Defendants have: violated the Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”) regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) by violating certain public hearing requirements; have failed to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”); incorrectly and inadequately prepared Environmental Assessments (“EA”) and Findings Of No Significant Impact (“FONSI”); violated the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (“ISTEA”); and violated Tennessee law. Plaintiffs sought an injunction to halt the construction.

Federal and State Defendants moved to dismiss the Plaintiffs claims on the following grounds: (1) that the statute of limitations had expired, Defendants allege that the complaint was not filed within the six-year statute of limitations found in 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a) (2) there was no justiciable case or controversy; (3) there was no private right of action; and (4) the state law did not confer jurisdiction.

On September 15, 1997, District Judge Campbell granted Defendants motion to dismiss. Judge Campbell held that: (1) NEPA claims accrued, for statute of limitations purposes, when the FHWA approved FONSI, and (2) no private right of action existed under the ISTEA. 976 F.Supp. 1119. Plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit.

On April 28, 1999, Judge Moore of the Sixth Circuit held that: (1) the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) does not apply to state agencies; (2) the issuance of the FONSI was a final agency action for statute of limitations purposes; and (3) the claim for the violation of the ISTEA may be brought under the APA. The Court of Appeals directed the lower court to determine whether the project was a “major federal action” under NEPA. 173 F.3d 1033. Plaintiffs once again moved for a preliminary injunction in the district court.

On September 10, 1999, District Court Judge Campbell, once again denied Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. Judge Campbell held that: (1) the project was not a “major federal action” under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and (2) the preliminary injunction was not warranted. 67 F.Supp.2d 875. In support of denying the preliminary injunction, Judge Campbell stated that even if the court was to assume that the construction project was major federal action under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the cost of halting construction would have been substantial, and the residents of the affected area would have actually benefitted from the efficient transportation system. Additionally, Judge Campbell stated that Plaintiff delayed in bringing the suit for over ten years, and Plaintiff did not have a strong or substantial likelihood of success of merits; therefore, the injunction was denied. Plaintiffs once again appealed.

On March 14, 2001, Judge Moore of the Sixth Circuit held that: (1) action under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was not moot; (2) there are two alternative bases for finding that a non-federal project constitutes a “major federal action” such that NEPA requirements may apply; (3) the state's actions with respect to state-funded highway did not restrict or limit the federal decision-makers' choice of reasonable alternatives when granting federal approvals for the highway construction, so as to render the project a “major federal action;” and (4) the federal agencies did not have sufficient control or responsibility over the construction of the highway to influence the outcome of the project, and thus render the project a “major federal action.” 243 F.3d 270. Judge Moore concluded that because no federal agency had jurisdiction over the non-federal project, the federal defendants lacked sufficient control or responsibility over the state highway to influence the project's outcome; therefore, it was not a “major federal action.” Despite this finding, Judge Moore remanded the case because the disposition of the case did not dispose of the Plaintiff’s other claims for a declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction.

District Court Judge Campbell granted Defendants motion to dismiss after six months of Plaintiffs and Defendants filing motions supporting and opposing Plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend the complaint. The case closed on September 27, 2001.

Mary Kate Sickel - 11/14/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Transportation
General
Environmental Impact Statements
Road construction
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
National Environmental Protection Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321–4370f
Defendant(s) Federal Highway Administration
Tennessee Department of Transportation
United States Department of Transportation
Plaintiff Description A non-profit corporation comprised of members who live and work in Williamson County.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 1997
Case Closing Year 2001
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
No documents currently in the collection

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