The opinion of the court was delivered by: SIRICA
Under Section 4 of the Airport and Airway Development Act Amendments of 1976, 49 U.S.C.A. § 1712(i) (Supp. 1977), the Secretary of Transportation ("Secretary") must, by January 1, 1978, prepare and publish a major revision of the National Airport System Plan for the development of public airports in the United States. The plaintiffs -- the Environmental Defense Fund and the City of Boston, Massachusetts -- claim that under 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C) (1970), an environmental impact statement must accompany the revision.
The Secretary disagrees.
In order to resolve this dispute, the Court must ascertain the nature of two separate obligations that Congress has imposed on the Secretary and their relationship to one another.
The first of these obligations is that the Secretary prepare a National Airport System Plan.
This requirement is contained in the Airport and Airway Development Act, 49 U.S.C. §§ 1701 et seq. (1970), as amended, 49 U.S.C.A. §§ 1701 et seq. (Supp. 1977). The purpose of this Act is to aid the development of a nationwide network of airports in order to meet the growing demands of interstate commerce, the Postal Service, and the national defense. 49 U.S.C.A. § 1701 (Supp. 1977). The means chosen to do this is to subsidize to certain percentage limits worthy airport development projects which a locality has proposed to undertake.
The National Airport System Plan's function is to aid the Secretary in determining which projects are worthy of federal support and which are not. For, although Congress has set general geographic guidelines for apportioning much of the subsidies, all awards must clearly be guided by and consistent with the Plan. E.g., 49 U.S.C.A. §§ 1714(a), 1715(b)(2) (Supp. 1977).
(1) What level and kind of airport service will interstate commerce, the Defense Department, and the Postal Service demand during the succeeding ten-year period [ 49 U.S.C.A. § 1712(a), (i) (Supp. 1977)];
(2) What specific airports are needed to fulfill this demand; what will be each airport's role in the system -- that is, what will be its level of demand and what kinds of aircraft should be used to meet that demand [ 49 U.S.C.A. §§ 1712(a), (i), 1716(a) (Supp. 1977)];
(3) In general, what kind and level of development will, in the Secretary's view, be necessary for each airport to fulfill its designated role in the system during the next ten years [ 49 U.S.C.A. § 1712(i) (Supp. 1977)];
(4) What will be the cost, "sufficiently accurate so as to be capable of being used for future year apportionments," of the projected development needed [ 49 U.S.C.A. § 1712(a), (i) (Supp. 1977)].
Much of the information necessary to make these judgments, including information on environmental concerns, is intended to come from consultation with other federal officials, 49 U.S.C. § 1712(c)-(g) (1970), and also from the work the Secretary has already done on related projects, such as the statement on national transportation policy that was required by 49 U.S.C. § 1702. But, as the Secretary has readily conceded, a great deal of the information is to come from local system plans developed by state and regional officials. 49 U.S.C.A. § 1713(a) (Supp. 1977).
In short, then, Congress has required the Secretary to put together, from a number of different sources, a plan that will serve as a basis "for determining the fiscal and physical needs of an airport system," and for developing airports in a planned, orderly way nationwide. H.R. ...