The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBINSON, JR.
This is an action in which plaintiffs
seek to restrain the Director of the Defense Mapping Agency ("DMA") and the Secretary of Defense from effectuating the consolidation and collocation of the DMA Hydrographic Center ("DMAHC") and the DMA Topographic Center ("DMATC") at the DMATC headquarters located in Brookmont, Maryland. The case was consolidated for hearing on preliminary and final relief, and the matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment.
For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that there are no genuine issues of material fact, and that Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
DMAHC designs and produces hydrographic maps and charts for the United States Navy and Merchant Marine. DMAHC is presently located in Suitland, Prince George's County, Maryland, and employs some 750 military and civilian personnel. DMATC designs and produces topographic maps and charts for the United States Army and Air Force. DMATC occupies facilities on two sites within one mile of each other situated in Brookmont, Montgomery County, Maryland. DMATC presently employs between 2,300-2,400 military and civilian personnel and has occupied its Brookmont facilities continually since 1943. Since 1971, employment at Brookmont has declined.
On October 27, 1976, DMA requested approval of the Office of the Secretary of Defense to study the feasibility and desirability of consolidating the operations of DMAHC and DMATC. Approval was granted and a Study Group was appointed to consider the question. Between March and April 1977, DMA notified local government officials, including the Prince George's County and Montgomery County Executives and the State Planning Department of Maryland, of the matter under consideration. On June 28, 1977, the DMAHC-DMATC Consolidation Study, which included an Environmental Impact Assessment ("EIA"), was submitted to the Director of DMA. On July 21, 1977, the Director endorsed the findings of the Study Group, concluded that preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") was not required, and determined that DMAHC and DMATC should be consolidated at the DMATC headquarters in Brookmont. The Secretary of Defense approved the proposed consolidation on August 5, 1977. At that time Congress was notified of the consolidation decision, as were DMAHC and DMATC employees. On August 10, 1977, DMA published a notice of the decision in the Federal Register and invited comments.
Some formal comments arguing against the proposed consolidation were received. Other protests took the form of employee petitions, letters to Congressmen, and letters to the Director of DMA. The Washington Post and the Montgomery Sentinel ran stories on the opposition to the proposed move. On October 17, 1977, DMA began the phased implementation of the consolidation plan. In November and December meetings were held between DMA and concerned citizens and their representatives. DMA continued to maintain that an EIS was not required and that the consolidation would proceed. In January 1978, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower Reserve Affairs and Logistics refused to halt the project. Plaintiffs filed the instant lawsuit on January 13, 1978. Actual transfer of the bulk of DMAHC employees and their furniture and equipment is not scheduled until September 1978.
The issue in this case
is whether DMA's decision to move forward on consolidation without preparation of an EIS violates the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 ("NEPA")
and relevant regulations issued by the Council on Environmental Quality ("CEQ Guidelines")
and regulations of the Department of Defense ("DOD Regulations").
The Court approaches this issue within the framework for review established by the Administrative Procedure Act. The Court's inquiry is limited to a determination of whether DMA's decision to forego an EIS was arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. Hanly v. Kleindienst, 471 F.2d 823, 830 (2nd Cir. 1972); Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission v. U.S. Postal Service, 159 U.S.App.D.C. 158, 164, 487 F.2d 1029, 1035 (1973). The specific questions before the Court in judging the propriety of DMA's actions are whether the DMAHC-DMATC consolidation constitutes major Federal action which significantly affects the quality of the human environment around Brookmont and whether the environmental impact of the proposed consolidation is highly controversial.
The Court is persuaded that DMA's proposal to consolidate DMAHC and DMATC at the DMATC headquarters located at Brookmont, Maryland, is not a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment around Brookmont. At the outset, the Court has difficulty classifying the proposed consolidation as a major Federal action. The Court is aware of the very broad construction which courts have afforded the phrase "major Federal action." See Rucker v. Willis, 484 F.2d 158, 163 (4th Cir. 1973); S. W. Neighborhood Assembly v. Eckard, 445 F.Supp. 1195 (D.D.C.1978). However, this Court is not convinced that the transfer and consolidation of personnel and equipment at issue in this case, involving a limited number of people, minimal time to effect, and no new construction, is the sort of Federal action which Congress had in mind in enacting Section 102(2)(C) of NEPA. The consolidation herein appears comparable to the hiring of additional personnel at a Government facility operating at less than peak employment levels. Such an increase of personnel would not qualify as "major Federal action."
DMA considered the various environmental factors involved in the proposed move, including the effect on traffic in the Brookmont area, on sewage and solid waste control, and on noise and air pollution levels.
The Court is persuaded that DMA gave the environmental problem the requisite "hard look," identified the relevant areas of concern, and reasonably concluded that the environmental impact of the proposed consolidation would be insignificant.
DMA's examination of the environmental issues was substantial
and was conducted fully and in good faith. This Court will not substitute its judgment for that of the agency here.
Lastly, the Court finds that the environmental impact of the proposed consolidation does not amount to the sort of "highly controversial" impact which the CEQ Guidelines and the DOD Regulations indicate requires preparation of an EIS. The impact of the proposed move is local and the dispute over the environmental impact herein does not rise beyond the level of neighborhood opposition.