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PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA v. U.S. DEPT. OF TRANS.

United States District Court, Northern District of California


April 28, 2003

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL., PLAINTIFF(S),
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, ET AL., DEFENDANT(S). SIERRA CLUB, ET AL., PLAINTIFF(S), V. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, ET AL., DEFENDANT(S).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bernard Zimmerman, United States Magistrate Judge

RULING ON SCOPE OF INJUNCTIVE RELIEF
At the April 16, 2003 hearing, the Town argued that any injunctive relief should be tailored to permit grading and fencing, which are initial phases of the airport project, beginning in June 2003. The Town filed a brief in support of this contention and plaintiffs filed a brief in opposition. The Town argues that grading and fencing at the airport project site should go forward even if defendants are required to conduct additional environmental analysis because these initial phases of the project would not result in increased jet service or in adverse cumulative impacts. Town's Mem. of Points & Auth. in Supp. of Tailored Injunctive Relief at 1:18-20. The Town further contends that the land at the site has been disturbed "time and time again" so the impacts to the land would be "insignificant." Id. at 2:22-23. The Town's primary concern seems to be that if I enjoin all work on the project site, "[t]he Town will be unnecessarily delayed in implementing the Project once the procedural NEPA issues are fully resolved." Id. at 7:21-23.

The basis for injunctive relief "is irreparable injury and inadequacy of legal remedies." Amoco Production Co. v. Village of Gambell, 480 U.S. 531, 542 (1987). "In each case, a court must balance the competing claims of injury and must consider the effect on each party of the granting or withholding of the requested relief." Id. Injunctive relief is particularly appropriate in cases involving environmental injury. Id. at 541.

In this case, I am not persuaded that a balancing of the harms tips in favor of affording the Town the relief that it seeks. See Save the Yaak, 840 F.2d at 722 (balancing the equities and enjoining the Forest Service from further reconstruction and timber sales pending further environmental review). For example, the Town's concern about delay assumes that the project, in its current or similar form, will survive further NEPA review.

In addition, Denyse Racine of the California Department of Fish and Game testified that the grading will be in excess of 16 acres. Declaration of Denyse Racine ¶ 5. If, for example, the project does not go forward as planned, that large area will have been needlessly disturbed.

The Town's argument that construction of the new fence should go forward because the FAA requires new security fencing and that a new fence will be erected, pursuant to FAA regulations, even if the airport is not expanded, is not supported by the record. In addition, at least some of this grading and fencing appears to be the subject of an environmental assessment and FONSI by the National Forest Service. If the Town can make a future showing that the FAA requires a new fence or that the Forest Service's environmental decision is finalized and survives any subsequent judicial review, it can seek a modification of the injunction.

20030428

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