Federal judge rules against environmental groups in I-69 suit

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The two environmental organizations challenging the construction of Interstate 69 in southern Indiana lost in federal court Tuesday. The lawsuit filed by Hoosier Environmental Council and Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads dealt with the stretch of the interstate from Washington, Ind. to Scotland, Ind.

The alignment of the road selected by the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration in this portion, called Section 3, would affect nearly 5 acres of various types of wetlands, nearly 2 acres of open ponds and roughly 1,000 linear feet of streams within the right-of-way to be relocated.

The interstate is being constructed in tiers. The first tier decided what general route to use from Indianapolis to Evansville. The second tier provides for more specific locations of sections of the highway.

Instead of the United States Army Corps of Engineers issuing one Section 404 permit for discharge of pollutants under the Clean Water Act for the entire project, it decided to have an application for each segment of the highway. In order to qualify for a permit, the project must, among other things, be the “least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.”

The Corps issued a permit to INDOT regarding Section 3, allowing INDOT to discharge dredged and fill material into the waters of the United States.

The plaintiffs sued in the Southern District of Indiana, seeking a declaration that the Corps violated Section 404 of the Clean Water Act by issuing a permit for the work on Section 3 without fulfilling Section 404’s requirements, and to prevent further construction of that section or the remainder of the interstate until the Corps complied with Section 404.

They maintain that the CWA requires the Corps to undertake an analysis of whether there is a less damaging practicable alternative for the entire interstate project, not just the section at issue, and that the tiering process lets INDOT work around the CWA.

Judge Larry J. McKinney rejected that argument.

“If granting a permit for one section of the route proved impossible under strictures of the CWA, then it is possible that INDOT and the FHWA might have (to) re-evaluate overall alignment alternatives, but there is no CWA requirement that the Corps must take it upon itself to examine alternatives to a project for which no permit is sought,” he wrote.

The plaintiffs also claimed the Corps public interest review for the Section 3 permit was inadequate because it failed to examine the probable negative impacts of the entire interstate project.

The judge pointed out that the Corps only has the authority to permit or regulate project activity that occurs in the navigable waters of the U.S. He also held the Corps did weigh each of the required general factors and several other specific factors with regards to Section 3, and its public interest review was not arbitrary, capricious, in violation of the law, or contrary to the substantial weight of the evidence.

McKinney granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and denied the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment.  



Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.