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Federal judge rules against environmental groups in I-69 suit

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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.  

 

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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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